Don’t Leave Him There

I tried to read the Christmas story yesterday. Not the one about the BB gun. The one about Jesus being born in a manger. From Luke chapter two.  I say “tried” because it took three attempts for me to get through it.

It’s such a beautiful story to me, and I wanted to hear it old-school, King James, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” because that’s how I learned it so many years ago. And maybe it’s because I know the ending, but I just got overcome with emotion at the thought that God Himself would leave the safety and beauty of heaven to come in such a low and meager way. For me.

After several tissues and raised-eyebrow looks from my husband, I finished reading. Y’all, I felt like I’d been to church!! My heart was full, and I felt cleansed and new. And a little raw.

Still this morning, I am overcome with the joy of the Lord after a blessed Christmas Day with some of my family. I’ve read the story again this morning, sans tears and snot, and I am struck by the thought that the sweet baby in a manger is where a lot of people keep Jesus. They love the Virgin Mary kneeling over the manger of hay, full of Emmanuel, God With Us, Christmas-card perfect halo glowing around His head… But they never let the Prince of Peace grow up!

As I write, I’m hearing music in my head. New words. New music. I need to get this written down, but for now I hear a chorus that goes something like:

Don’t leave Him there, tender and small!

Don’t keep Him stuck in a manger, tiny and helpless and new.

Let Him grow up into your heart

and bring all the Love that His Father sent Him to bring for you.

Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could drink egg nog, watch movies, and spend ourselves into bankruptcy. True, our Lord loved a party and even turned water into wine at a wedding reception! But that tiny Baby in a manger came that we might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly.

The beautiful thing about our Savior is that, just like the wise men, we can bring him our gifts… The best that we have, whatever it may be… And it’s enough. And if all we have is water, He will turn it into the best wine imaginable.

He is born!!!

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!!!

There Is A Fountain

It’s not Thursday, but I have a throwback song in my head this morning… An old hymn that I grew up singing and playing called There Is A Fountain. It’s still one of my favorites to this day. I love contemporary music and expressing myself through it, but old hymns like this one are rich and forever embedded in my memory.

Hymns are so strong, so well written. They have lasted for hundreds of years for a reason. A lot of them were written out of places of pain and sorrow, yet there’s so much hope in them, and that resonates with people. – Allan Hall

So many people through the generations learned the basic tenants of theology through singing and hearing the old hymns. Personally, I’m excited that there’s a huge trend toward contemporary artists putting out new music based in existing hymnology… Bringing back old standards set to new tunes or in new arrangements. The one I’m hearing this morning was recorded by a group called Selah, and they’ve done many of the older hymns in a new way.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away

There, since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supplied,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die

Click here to listen to Selah sing this wonderful song. I just listened again, and ended up in tears of gratitude for our Saviors precious gift.

Click here to read about Selah and the way God has been with them through their struggles and tragedies in the middle of serving Him with their music.

Who Do You Think You Are??

Did anybody ever ask you that question? It’s so confrontational! “Who do you think you are??” Sometimes I know exactly who I am. Other times, I wonder about that myself. “Who are we that You would be mindful of us? What do You see that’s worth looking our way?” Sometimes I ask the exact same questions as this first line from a MercyMe song, God With Us. They’re the lyrics in my head this morning.

Lord You know
Our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show
A love we cannot afford

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel
God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel
God with us

The Psalmist asked the same questions, though much more eloquently.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Psalms 8:3-4

Who am I? I’m a tiny insignificant nobody in the grand scheme of this world. I’m just a woman in love with The Lord. I’m the crazy lady who hears music in her head and feels called to share it with anybody willing to listen. My heart and my spirit sing songs to The Lord… Sleeping, awake, working, resting, painting, sewing, cooking… Doesn’t matter. All for the One who paid my debt, and broke the chains.

Click here to listen to God With Us by MercyMe.

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!!