FIRST

 

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

First


Lauren Daigle’s voice woke me up at 3:30 this morning singing these words from her song, First. How often do I go boldy before the throne of God with a laundry list of my needs and wants? Sometimes we use prayer like a drive-thru at McDonalds…  We give God our order and drive away with a bag of forgiveness and a side of grace riding shotgun and feel like we’ve done our prayer thing for the day! To quote the apostle Paul, “may it never be!” (Romans 3:4)

The way I see it, God doesn’t want my list anyway. He knows what I need already! What He desperately wants is my heart. Me. My self. My soul and spirit. My body and mind. ALL OF ME. In relationship with Him. See, that’s the beautiful thing about the heart of our God… He is never going to force us to come to Him. I can choose to follow my own path, doing my thing, and hoping everything works out. Or I can follow the One who created me, who knows how I work, the One who wrote the manual.

So this morning, even though my heart is heavy and full of burden for people I love and care about, I’m not starting there. I’m sitting here in my nightgown with my coffee and my hands lifted high, offering my heart to God. (In between sentences. 😉) It’s His already, my heart, and I know that He will take good care of it. He can fix it when it breaks. He won’t ever lose it or misplace it. My heart is precious to Him. It’s in good hands. 

Click here to listen to Lauren Daigle’s First.


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Drowning

I never learned to swim properly. I mean, I can swim… Just not well. I probably look like I’m trying to swim through mud rather than water. (I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never seen myself swim!) Let’s just say it’s a struggle and leave it at that. I look pretty goofy, too, because I have to wear nose plugs, goggles, and ear plugs. Without them, I feel as though I’m trying to save myself from drowning rather than swimming and enjoying the water. Not. Pretty.

I woke up this morning with a lyric singing through my head from Casting Crowns. “Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness.” It’s got me thinking about drowning… That awful feeling I get in the water when I’m trying to swim. Panic. Fighting for air. Hyper-alertness and stressed out! See, the thing is that I only feel comfortable in the water if I have my feet on the ground and my head above water. If my feet can’t reach the ground, I want to be hanging onto the side of the pool… For dear life!!

Thank God that He doesn’t operate that way!!! If I’m going to drown in anything, I want it to be in God’s sea of forgetfulness. I want to be out in the middle of it with nothing to hold onto. In so deep that my feet could never hit bottom. Over my head, pulling me under, enveloping me in God’s everlasting love and mercy. The trouble is that most of the time, I end up just wading at the shoreline of God’s grace and forgiveness. I get my feet wet, maybe even up to my knees. I want to see it, feel it, know it’s there, but I don’t want to lose myself in it. I don’t want to let myself be swept out into the sea of His forgetfulness where I have no control and my life is in HIS hands.

Psalms 103:12 says that God has removed our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west.”

Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness

The chains of yesterday surround me

I yearn for peace and rest

I don’t want to end up where You found me

And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight

I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west

And I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned

But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Chorus:
Jesus can You show me just how far the east is from the west

‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again

In the arms of Your mercy I find rest

‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west

From one scarred hand to the other

Thank you, Lord, for not letting me stay in the shallow end of your forgiveness and grace!! Thank you for Your beautiful scarred hands that draw me out into the deep end.

Click here to listen to East to West from Casting Crowns.

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.

Drops in the ocean

Where do you go when you want to know? Most of us grab our smart phones and get any information we need in an instant. Is it going to rain tomorrow? There’s an app for that. How many times a day does someone ask a question or speculate on a topic and everyone in the group picks up their phone to look it up? 

Some things I need to know can’t be found on Google. Like how much my husband loves me, or whether my friend’s test results came out okay, or if another friend was accepted for the graduate program she desperately wanted. How about God’s love for me? Can I Google that or should I look elsewhere? The song in my head tells me where to look. It is Drops In The Ocean from Hawk Nelson.

If you want to know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If want to see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I say you are forgiven
It’s more than the drops in the ocean

It’s all about relationship. Do I want a relationship with my phone or with people? With God? Our Heavenly Father created us to love us, to be His children. To put down whatever is distracting us from Him and pay attention. How often have we done that with our own kids? “Look at me. What did I say? Pay attention.” This song reminds me of the promise in Romans 8:38-39…

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If I want to know about God’s love for me, I must go to the source and open my Bible. And read it. And reflect on what it says and remember what it says. I must look at the hands and feet of Jesus. I must fix my eyes on the wounds He suffered, the cruelty and shame He took on Himself so that I could live this life He gave me. Thousands of times he has forgiven me, even before I knew I needed forgiveness. More than the drops in the ocean. There’s NOT an app for that!!

Click here to listen to Drops In The Ocean from Hawk Nelson.

Featured image: Drop in the Ocean by David Ardley, 2012. Click here for more information on this artist. 

The morning after

I love the morning after a big snow. Everything is blanketed in soft white, and all the world seems hushed and still. This morning, the sun is bright and it’s as though God bedazzled his creation with beautiful diamonds… Just scattered them across the top once He was satisfied with the way everything looked down here. After covering the earth’s scars with snow, and covering us with His forgiveness so that our old self is no longer visible, our precious Lord gives more… Little jewels of grace and goodness.

It renders me speechless and I can only stand at my window and stare. And thank God for His goodness.

The morning after
Jewels, diamonds on snow
A gift of God’s love

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Snowmageddon

We are in the middle of what some are calling “snowmageddon.” We have three inches on the ground this morning and 10 to 12 more expected before tomorrow morning. Outside my studio window, the sky is gray and it’s hard to tell where the sky stops and the ground starts. The wind is so strong, the snow is “falling” sideways… So horizontal to the ground, that I wonder how any of it is actually ON the ground. Somehow, though, it has covered the brown muddy earth with all its ugliness, and made it clean. White. Pure. God’s Gesso!

As a painter, I use a product called Gesso to prime a surface or to start over. It’s a thick, heavy-bodied, white paint-like substance that seals and stiffens the canvas, covering anything on the surface I’m prepping. Sometimes I’ll use it on a practice painting that I know I won’t keep or need again. It’s a do-over. I can start again with new paint, new colors, even a new medium to create another painting. Anything can become a canvas with Gesso… A nice box with a magnetic closure, a wood panel.

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
Covers him evermore

I love the lyrics to this song. Somewhere It’s Snowing. 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. All of our dark, ugly, gray, broken, scarred imperfectness is gone beneath the blanket of God’s goodness and grace.

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. He sees the snow-covered beauty within me, and I think maybe what’s underneath doesn’t matter any more.

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

Featured image… I took the snapshot outside my window just now, trying to capture the sideways snow.

When MERCY Found Me

In one moment everything changed
Who I was got washed away
When mercy found me
My Savior’s arms were open wide
And I felt love for the very first time
When mercy found me

The Rhett Walker Band has been singing these words to their song, When Mercy Found Me, in my head… All morning long! Here are a few thoughts…

WHEN Mercy found me, not if.
When MERCY found me, God’s compassion and forgiveness, not what I deserve.
When Mercy FOUND me, searched me out, came to me unbidden in the form of Jesus’s love and grace.
When Mercy found ME. Not the other way around. Little old me, when I wasn’t looking.

My mind found peace.
My soul found hope.
My heart found a home.

Peace that passes understanding. The Hope of glory, Christ in us. And a home… That word that brings longing and nostalgia, comfort and rest… Home. A place for my heart to live, deep within the heart of Jesus.

Click here to listen to When Mercy Found Me.

Peace – Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Hope – Colossians 1:27 God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ is you, the hope of glory.

Home – John 14:23 Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching… (My Father and I) will come to him and make our home with him.

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.

Say AMEN!

If there’s anybody here who’s found Him faithful
Anybody here who knows He’s able
Say Amen
And if there’s anybody here who’s seen His power
Anybody here brought through the fire
Say Amen
Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow
Peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow
And seen it time and time again
Then just Say AMEN!

These are the words running through my mind this morning (really most of the night.) They’re from a song called Say Amen by a band called Finding Favour. When I heard this song in my head at 3:00 in the morning, I just started thanking God for all the good in my life, small and large. That’s how I fell back to sleep, in the middle of thanking God for his blessings one by one.

There’s a lot of stuff out there, including music, about finding grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and so much more. Good stuff! But what do we do when we find grace? When we find mercy and forgiveness? Peace and joy? THAT is why I love this song. We say AMEN! We praise God for it and give him the honor and glory due him for bringing us through the fire, for being so very faithful to deliver us.

I love the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for “amen.” It’s emphatic and very clear. See it here.

Can I get an AMEN??

Go here to listen to Finding Favour perform Say Amen!