It’s Personal

The song in my head this morning has been there all night. It kept me from going to sleep. It was there every time I woke up, which was often, and it’s one of my favorites. These words humble me. The music forces me to sing harmony, and I can never get through this song dry-eyed. So rather than copying the lyrics in song form, I’ve written them as though I were speaking them, because that’s how I always hear this song.

How deep the Father’s love for us! How vast, beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss! The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulder. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything… No gifts, no power, no wisdom… But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection! Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer, but this I know with all my heart…His wounds have paid my ransom.

It’s personal, this thing Christ did for me. His death on the cross was not some grand gesture for all of mankind as a whole. It was God’s love for ME that nailed Jesus to that cross. It was MY life He was saving! Everything I am and everything I hope to be is because of HIS immeasurable love lavished on me. His wounds paid my ransom. I am free. Unchained. Unfettered. And forever grateful.

Featured image: the dogwoods have been spectacular this Spring in Kentucky. This picture focuses on the tree with the blooms as a bonus. If we focus on the tree on which Jesus died, the cross, we get the bonus of His love and mercy, His forgiveness and grace.

Click here to listen to the Selah version of this gorgeous song.

Click here to listen to the Phillips, Craig & Dean version.

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Face to Face

When I was about 14 years old, my grandmother, my Mamaw, bought me a song book. By then, I was pianist at my church and playing for the gospel quartet my mom was singing with, but there was one song in this book that Mamaw wanted me to learn. So, she bought the book for $2.50 which was a lot of money from her black-lung pension existence. It’s called Songs of Faith and Hope. I’ve used this book for over 40 years now, and I knew it was the one I needed when I woke up this morning.

Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face, what will it be?
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me.

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Written in 1898, these words were a poem written by a tone-deaf mother of five children who sent them to the composer asking him to set them to music. The result of Carrie Breck’s lyrics and Grant Tullar’s music became this old familiar hymn, Face to Face, which has been published in many hymnals and sung for generations. It has also been singing through my mind since I woke up this morning!

Hundreds of songs have been written about what it might be like when we see Jesus face to face. For those of us who have put our faith and trust in God, we know without a doubt that we WILL see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face to face some day. Our imaginations can’t begin to fathom that moment when we are ushered into the presence of God and Jesus welcomes us home with open arms and a holy hug. I can’t wait for that day!!

But until then, I want to be that hug for someone else. I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus here in my world. Until I see Christ face to face in my next life, I want others to see His face in me in this life. How am I doing with that? I have no idea, but I will keep trying. I will do good when it is in my power to do so. I will love others and love ON others… Love above all things. Because He first loved me.

Click here to listen to Face to Face.

He. Is. RISEN!!

Easter overwhelms me. More than birthdays or summer vacation or fireworks on the Fourth of July or even Christmas, Easter gets to me. Every time. This year was no exception, and it’s taken me a couple of days to process it (partly because I’ve been sick through it all and the fog in my head is just now clearing.) The sheer JOY of Easter Day is uncontainable. Just like the grave could not keep Him from rising again, this mortal body of mine cannot contain the joy in my heart that Easter brings!

As a church musician, we go through it all. We Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence as we Go to Dark Gethsemane. We play and sing the songs of Lent, which are necessary, and because music is my worship, they drain me physically. I sing the words in my head as I play through the Lenten season, working my way to the cross. By the time I get to the JOY of HE IS RISEN and the songs that go with it, my heart is a wrung-out, dry sponge just waiting to soak up all that Christ died to give me.

And maybe that’s the point. How could I ever know and appreciate all that Christ did for me if I live only in the Easter days of my life? I must experience the grief and shame weighed-down of Christ’s Sacred Head, Now Wounded before I can truly appreciate the victory that came when Up From the Grave He Arose to conquer sin and death! Christ, The Lord, Is Risen Today so that I could have LIFE and have it abundantly!! “The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now.”

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, OH GLORIOUS DAY!!!!

Click here to listen to Casting Crowns Glorious Day.

Featured image by my daughter in law, Emily Price. May your heart’s Easter basket be filled with the goodness of our glorious God!!

 

 

Sing Your Song

As I write this morning, we are in the middle of a major thunderstorm. All night, lightning bright as day came in through the cracks in the bedroom window blinds, and thunder rolled across the sky. It’s still dark outside and the rain cries sad tears down my studio window. And still the thunder rolls.

Birds are beginning to sing outside my window, oblivious to the rain or the dark or the lightning and thunder. There, in the middle of dark and gray, rain and dreariness, comes a bright song. It’s so hopeful and routine, just another day in the life of a songbird. This bird can do nothing BUT sing as daylight approaches because that’s its nature. It would never “skip the song today because I don’t feel like it.” Good weather or bad, this bird must sing the song God gave it because that’s how God designed it.

So why not me? God created me in His image, and as a believer and Christ-follower, I have the mind of Christ. Shouldn’t I be singing in spite of the storm around me? Regardless of the rain in my life, crying those sad tears down the window of my heart, shouldn’t I be singing my song… the song God gave me?

Psalms 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” If I sing the song God created me to sing, others will see and hear and know that God is good!

Psalm 98:1 says, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

Whatever your “song” is, sing it. Dance if you’re a dancer. Play your flute or piano or drum. Paint as to the Lord if you’re an artist. Are you a cook? Let the Lord smell the fragrant offering coming from your kitchen! However God designed you, give it back to Him no matter how dark or dreary… even in the middle of a thunderstorm.

 

Are you married to what you think?

What do you believe? Not about Santa Claus or the tooth fairy or whether Kentucky will win the NCAA championship this year, though most Kentuckians would rather discuss the championship than their faith. (Trust me on that one… I live here.) March Madness is in full swing here in the Bluegrass State. I was at a basket-making class last weekend. All women, all my age or older, and (you guessed it) the conversation eventually turned to UK basketball. One lady even made a UK basket and several were wearing their blue and white.

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life
We believe in the Crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s coming back again
We believe

I woke up with the Newsboys singing We Believe in my head this morning. It got me thinking… DO I believe? As I read the lyrics, I can answer without hesitation, “Yes, I do!” But do I live it out? Does my life look like Jesus is coming back again? Would I rather talk about basketball or basket weaving than my personal belief in the One True God?

I love the ASL sign for the word “believe.” It’s a combination of the sign for “think” and “marry.” It’s a whole different perspective when you think about being married to what you think. Watch it here. Am I married to what I think about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? About His crucifixion, death, and resurrection? Is it something I know deep in my heart and believe enough to be married to it? Those of us who have accepted Christ as our personal Savior have become part of the Church… The Bride of Christ.

I believe, I am married to what I think, because Jesus loved me enough to be married to me, to His church. He is our bridegroom.

What do you believe?

Click here to listen to We Believe from the Newsboys.

“It doesn’t matter!” -Grace

I hear a voice, and He calls me “redeemed” when others say I’ll never be enough.

This line from the MercyMe song, Greater, woke me up this morning. Just this line. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that God calls us “redeemed” no matter what anyone else says of us? Even ourselves. As this line played on a loop in my mind while I went about my wake-up routine, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said those same words…. Even ourselves.

I am my own worst enemy. I am self-everything… -Critical, -absorbed, -serving, -deprecating, -fillintheblank. Insert the word “self” in front of each of those words and many others. I have always been too quick to tear myself down. But that’s not what God says of me.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:1

Like the song says, “there will be days I lose the battle. But Grace says that it doesn’t matter because the cross already won the war!” I love the full definition of the word redeemed at Merriam-Webster.com. Please read it and know that Christ has done this for you. And me!!!

Full Definition of REDEEM

transitive verb
1
a  :  to buy back :  repurchase

b:  to get or win back

2
:  to free from what distresses or harms: as 

a:  to free from captivity by payment of ransom


b:  to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental


c:  to release from blame or debt :clear


d:  to free from the consequences of sin

3
:  to change for the better :  reform
4
5
a  :  to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby

(1):  to remove the obligation of by payment <the United States Treasury redeems savings bonds on demand>

(2)  :  to exchange for something of value <redeem trading stamps>

c:  to make good :fulfill

6
a  :  to atone for :  expiate <redeem an error>

(1):  to offset the bad effect of

(2)  :  to make worthwhile :  retrieve

Please have a listen to this wonderful song, be prepared to dance. Greater.
Please click here to read Greater from a different perspective written in August last year.

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.

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.

Love Take Me Over

🎶Love, take these words that I’m speaking
Love, take these thoughts that I’m thinking
Love, take me over
Love, fill up all of my space and
Love, stand right here in my place
Love, hear this prayer that I’m praying
Love, take me, Love, take me over
Love, take me over

If you haven’t heard this song from Stephen Curtis Chapman, click here to listen to Love Take Me Over. It’s running through my head early this morning, lifting my spirits. I love the lyrics for the second verse…

This is what I’m sure of, I can only show love
When I really know how loved I am
When it over takes me, then it animates me
Flowing from my heart into my hands

So I’m praying, Father, help my heart believe
That right now You’re singing over me
And fill me up with Your love 🎵

What a simple truth! I can only show love when I really know how loved I am. Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I don’t think any scripture more beautifully describes love than 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Here’s what I think. God cannot go against His own character and His own word. God is perfect love (1 John 4). By loving ourselves and loving others, we abide in God. I saw one definition of abide that said “continue without fading or being lost.” So if I love myself, and I love others, then I will continue in God’s perfect love… It won’t fade… I won’t be lost in the cracks. If it’s not a loving thing to do, then don’t do it. Period. Because every time we do something UNloving, I think Satan scores another point for his team.

Love above all things. Love take me over!!