No Man Is An Island

What is it about New Year’s Eve that makes us pensive and reflective about life in general, and our own lives in particular? Maybe it’s just me, but I always find myself thinking about the year ending and how different things are compared to last year at this time. The list is long today… our daughter moved to Denmark, a new daughter-in-law to be, this blog, retirement, painting, teaching, a new grandson, travel, a new granddaughter, major illnesses, healing from those illnesses, following God’s call to a new congregation. It all makes me wonder what 2015 has in store!!!

One thing I know about the year to come is that I won’t be walking alone. I have people I love, and people who love me, who will be walking with me in all the good and bad life dishes out this year. Maybe that’s why Tenth Avenue North is singing No Man Is An Island in my head this morning.

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
You don’t have to fight me, I am for you
We’re not meant to live this life alone

I have goals and aspirations for 2015 just like everyone else. One of them is to let other people in. To stop trying to do everything on my own. To realize that others love me and are on MY side. The song is right… We aren’t meant to live this life alone. God places people in our lives to help us bear our burdens. “Together we can lift each other up.”

Another goal for 2015 is to be that person for someone else, to listen more than I talk. I know that I need other people, so why not get my needs met by being there for somebody who feels alone, who is struggling to do it all by themselves? Who is that someone is your life who needs you right now?

Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let’s reach out to something higher
Ain’t no life outside each other
We are not alone

Being the person others need can be draining and often overwhelming, but WE don’t have to do it alone, either! God gave us His Spirit who lives in us. Our Comforter. Our Helper. The “voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” – Isaiah 30:21

May our God above you, Christ within you, and the Holy Spirit beside you be with you, carrying you through whatever comes in 2015!

Click here to listen to No Man Is An Island.

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Christmas in a Cup

I’m a coffee girl, and I’ve already had one cup this morning. But, for some unknown reason, I decided to have a cup of tea rather than a second cup of coffee. So here I am at my desk with a cup full of Christmas. Truly! This particular tea is called Christmas in a Cup… A black tea full of spices and orange. Aromatic, warm, soothing, delicious. Just what I needed this morning! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple? When I’m feeling down or suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I could simply tell the waiter, “I’ll have a cup of Christmas this morning, thanks.”

Though I’m enjoying my tea in the new cup one of my piano students gave me for Christmas (Thanks, Barrett!), I don’t think it works that way. These days after Christmas the house is still a wreck, and I can’t seem to get ahead of it. I’m feeling the aftershock of leaving a congregation I love to go to a new one, knowing that I can serve God anywhere He calls me. It still hurts. Missing my kids already, and wondering when I’ll get to see them again. Loving them so much it hurts and they don’t even know.

I think that’s how God loves us… So much that it hurts and we don’t even know. We go about our lives, especially at Christmas time like this, blissfully unaware that the One and Only God Almighty is loving us as hard as He can while we hustle for the perfect gift and bake cookies while we watch White Christmas on Netflix. It never occurs to us that God already gave us the perfect gift when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us… Emmanuel, God with us.

When Jesus took all my guilt and shame on Himself on the cross, He gave me the perfect gift. Eternal life. His life. Life with Him forever. He gave me Christmas in a Cup… And I drink it every time I take Holy communion when I drink the cup in remembrance of Him! Every time I take that little cup of grape juice along with everyone else in my congregation, I am experiencing Christmas all over again. Emmanuel, God with us. God’s gift of life to all who believe and accept it. And I find it aromatic, warm, and soothing. Just what I need!!!

Click here for more information on Christmas in a Cup from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve is hard for me. I’m sad and melancholy, lonely for my kids. Times change and they grow up. They leave the house and suddenly Christmas Eve is no longer filled with giggles and anticipation, scurrying and hiding to wrap gifts, bedtimes full of sugar plum stories and the Grinch. I miss those things and so much more. That first inkling of understanding that maybe Santa is something different, something more. The sheer joy of dumping a stocking full of candy and toys and combing through to see what treasures are there.

Our Christmas Eve is quiet now, preparing food for tomorrow’s brunch and wrapping gifts to the sounds of Its A Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. The quiet is broken by worship services… mine and his. We are both church musicians, so Christmas Eve is a busy evening, but I can’t think of a better way to spend it than in worship of the infant King who’s birth we are celebrating tonight. Emmanuel. God with us.

And what a stocking full of treasures we find in that gift! Love. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Hope. Joy. Just to name a few. Gifts that we never have to take back. Gifts we can open again and again, if we open our hearts to the Messiah. Gifts that take my loneliness away. Gifts that bring peace to my spirit and joy to my heart.

My service is over. His is beginning. Both lovely, both churches full of music, full of scripture telling the nativity story, full of people seeking the King whom the angels heralded so long ago. Finding what only He can give, the Word made flesh.

And dwelling among us. Still.

To God be the glory!!!

Some Children See Him

Alfred S. Burt wrote a song in 1951 called Some Children See Him. James Taylor is singing this song in my head this morning, which doesn’t bother me in the least because it is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time.

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

What a beautiful message. Every child of God sees Him differently. When we think of Jesus, don’t we imagine that He looks like us? This is a no-brainer for me, because Jesus was born in that stable to poor parents instead of a palace to rich ones so that EVERYBODY could be part of His Kingdom, not just a select few.

Joel 2:32
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

So this week as Christmas approaches, lay aside every earthly thing, and with your heart as an offering, come and worship the infant King. It’s “Big L” Love that’s born for us all.

Click here to listen to James Taylor sing this beautiful song.

The featured image is courtesy of http://www.alfredburtcarols.com.

The Loudest Voice

I’m not so sure it was a silent night. Anybody who has given birth knows that it is NOT a quiet process. When Jesus was born in that manger, was his newborn cry tiny and frail? Could Mary and Joseph hear it over the sounds of the animals in the nearby stalls? Or was His the loudest voice of all?

When my babies were born, I saw nothing in that delivery room except that baby. Did he have hair? “How small she looks!” I counted all the fingers and toes… 40 fingers and 40 toes altogether over the years. “She has so much hair and its sticking straight up!!” “Look at his back… It’s covered in fuzz and there are rolls of fat.” I was so grateful and thankful to finally get that baby here, my focus was only on him. On her. And when I heard that first cry, I laughed and cried at the same time. Every time. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world!!

I think that Jesus’ voice was all his mother, Mary, heard that night. I think the sound of cattle and sheep, chickens and donkeys, and anything else in that stable receded into the background so far that Jesus’ voice is all she heard. She was listening for it at His birth, waiting to hear that first cry. And she was grateful and thankful to God for that sweet beautiful sound!

Jesus’ love is still the loudest voice. It reaches us in the middle of all the chaos of our lives. If we listen for His voice, everything else recedes into the background and HIS will be the only voice we hear. The world would have us believe otherwise. So many other voices are thrown at us all day every day, and if we aren’t paying attention, we could miss the sweet precious voice of Jesus and His love… His love that washes us in peace at Christmas time and every other time.

Somewhere It’s Snowing

I woke up this morning with a song in my head called Somewhere It’s Snowing, and when I got up and went to the kitchen, there was snow on the ground!! Not much, but some. How cool is that?? I’ve sung this song and accompanied it many times. So beautiful! Here are the lyrics.

I once read in a poem
That when snow covers the earth
That it hides the world’s scars
And gives nature new birth
And they say when a
Man turns from sin to the Lord
That forgiveness like snow
Cover him evermore

And somewhere it’s snowing
See the soft drifting down
As snowflakes surrender
To the hardening ground
Like the good grace of Jesus
That now covers our sin
In the kingdom of heaven
It’s snowing again

And its told that the angels
Lift their hearts and rejoice
When one traveler turns homeward
On his way to the Lord
If somewhere someone’s turning
And he’s giving his all
Then God’s grace
Like the snow
Is beginning to fall

I haven’t thought of this song in years, but I love the lyrics. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that, just like snow falls and blankets the ground with pure white, clean and fresh, the grace of Jesus covers our sin. It disappears beneath the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord and Savior, and we are made new.

1 Samuel 16:7 says this… “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If my heart is covered by the grace of Jesus, the blood of His atoning sacrifice, then my heart is fresh and clean before God when He looks on it. Amen and amen!!!

Click here to listen to Somewhere It’s Snowing by Lynn Michael Coffey.

Quietude

It’s the time of year when I start making lists and checking things off just to keep my head straight. I even add things to my list that I’ve already completed just so I can cross it off!! Anybody??? Life gets more complicated this time of year, and my complications seem to have multiplied for some reason. I’m a nurturer by nature, so it’s easy for me to find myself taking care of everybody else and forgetting to brush my teeth!

One thing on my list will stay on my list no matter how insane my life gets… My morning time with God. Somehow, the rest of my day just goes better if I start early, coffee in hand, Bible open, studying God’s word at my little desk in my studio. My Father meets me here. He waits for me. He knows I’ll be late some mornings, and He knows I’ll be distracted more often than I care to admit. It doesn’t matter. God has a lesson prepared for me each morning, even though I may not know what it is beforehand. I finish my study time feeling… quieted. It’s like while I am working through my Bible study or writing, God is making order out of the chaos in my heart and mind, putting all the thoughts and feelings back into their proper place and perspective so that I can move on with my day.

I will say it now, and as often as anybody will listen, IT IS INVALUABLE!!!! How did I not know this 20 or 30 years ago?? How did I ever raise four kids or work full time with a couple of part-time jobs, or be in a marriage relationship without this closeness with my Lord? Not to mention the sheer joy in having this time of perfect silence and quietude. I know I could have used the quiet and peace countless times over the years. They say God never gives us more than we can bear. I think God never gives us more than HE can bear!

In the stillness of my studio at 6:00 in the morning, God takes all my anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and condemnation, most all of which is self-imposed, and places it right at the feet of His Son. Like the words to the song in my head this morning.

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be

Unworthy. Undeserving. Humbled.

Click here to listen to Lauren Daigle sing her song, How Can It Be?

Click here to read a previous post about this song.

Go Light Your World

Candles and Christmas go hand in hand, don’t they? We burn those jar candles that smell like balsam and fir trees or peppermint and chocolate. We put those electric candles in all our windows through the holiday season. We give them as gifts. I recently saw a sale on Yankee Candles… Five of the large jar candles for $50!! (Lots of folks excited about that one.)

At church, we have an advent wreath with candles to light for each Sunday during the advent season and a big center candle to represent the light of Christ. We use candles in ceremonies like weddings. Our church has a special candle-lighting on Christmas Eve. Everyone has a candle lit and they turn off the electric lights… It’s stunning and beautiful and moving.

I woke up with Chris Rice’s song in my head this morning, Go Light Your World. Here are some of the lyrics, but please click here to listen.

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home

Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she’s been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

You know how when the power goes out in a storm, and you light one little candle just to be able to see… That one little candle can light the entire room!!! A little light goes a long way. And one little candle flame lights another and another… The way I see it, our “candle” is our smile. Our hug. That note of encouragement we write. That prayer we send up that he never even knew about. Our gift to the Salvation Army angel tree. The shoebox we packed for Operation Christmas Child. The meal we took to help out a little. The sandwiches we helped make at the soup kitchen. The hand we offer any time, any place. And so. Much. More.

It’s Christmas! Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Go light YOUR world.

The Birthday of a King

A little piece of my heart flew away yesterday. It was the size and shape of my daughter and her precious baby boy. I knew it would happen and that yesterday was the day. They were only here for two weeks after all. But somehow it must have gotten lost in the translation from my brain to my heart, because the reality of it, the FACT of it, felt like a kick in the gut.

I wonder if this feeling of overwhelming grief that I won’t see my daughter or her family for a very long time… Unable to hold my grandbaby in my arms again until he is walking and doesn’t want to be held… is this heartache even a drop in the bucket compared to the heartache God must have felt when He said goodbye to His only son? On the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem, was God grieving over His son, knowing what Jesus would have to walk through on this earth before His Father would see Him again?

The song in my head this morning is The Birthday of a King. I accompanied a wonderful tenor a few days ago on this old hymn, which was written in 1890 by William Neidlinger. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

Alleluia! O how the angels sang.
Alleluia! How it rang!
And the sky was bright with a holy light
’Twas the birthday of a King.

I know the Angels were singing alleluias. I know that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was overcome with joy for her newborn son. And maybe Joseph was able to put aside all his worries when he saw that precious newborn king in Mary’s arms. But God??? I don’t know. I DO know that my heart aches a little for God, and that one of the questions I’ll have for Him when I get to heaven someday is, “How could you let Him go?” Not “why”… I know why, and I am eternally grateful for the gift!!!!

Maybe the “how” is a little like how I could put my daughter and grandson on that plane yesterday. Because I had no choice. Because it was the only way she could get home. God sent His son because He had no choice if the world was to be saved. Jesus’ birth was the only way we could have a hope of ever getting home… To our heavenly HOME.

If God’s heart hurt like mine does right now… Well, that’s a God who loves me and a God I can love right back.

Click here to listen to The Birthday of a King. This is the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir version. I confess… I’m a huge fan!