Aware

As the cows come through the gate into the neighbor’s pasture outside my studio window, I can barely see their dark bulk against the gray sky. Slowly, heads hung low, they move out into the field. I watch through the rain-pocked window, thankful to be in here and not out there.

And then I think that, often, the presence of God is much like what I’ve just observed through my window.

My world is dark and gray, it’s raining in my heart, and God comes in… slow and steady. Massive and silent. Impervious to whatever storm is going on my life, the Lord moves into the field of my pain or heartache or sickness and settles there. Quietly. No fanfare.

Its just that, sometimes, I haven’t noticed that He’s there, because I’m too focused on the rain. Or the pain. Or both.

Let us become more aware of your presence

Let us experience the glory of your goodness

I woke up this morning with Francesca Battistelli singing this bit of lyric in my head from her song, Holy Spirit. And I know that this is what I want… To be more aware of God’s presence. To feel his warmth and BIGness in the middle of my pain. And maybe sit down beside Him, so that He shelters me from the wind and rain of doubt or fear.

Click here to listen to Holy Spirit from Francesca Battistelli.

Click here to read an earlier post about this song… Appetizers.

Even So Come

I freed a butterfly yesterday. The poor thing was trapped in a spider’s web outside the kitchen window. Its wing had been caught at the top edge, just enough to keep it trapped but not enough to stop it altogether, so that it was more tethered than trapped. This beautiful creature would take off as if to fly away from its bonds only to struggle and flap its wings to no avail, rest a while, and then repeat the agonizing process again and again.

I couldn’t stand it. I pulled a pair of scissors out of the drawer and carefully opened the window. The butterfly continued its “take off-struggle-rest” cycle so that it was difficult to get the scissors in the right place. During a brief rest period, I was able to snip the strand of web that was keeping the butterfly stuck in the spider’s snare. In an instant, it was soaring high and fast, farther and farther away from its earthly trappings, finally free to be the creature God made it to be.

As I opened my eyes this morning, a line from Kristian Stanfill’s song, Even So Come, was singing over me and through me.

Every heart longing for her King

We sing

Even so, come

Lord Jesus, come

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from this web that is keeping me from being the woman You created me to be.

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from the tethers that hold me to my old life, my earthly life, my selfish and sinful life… Chains that bind me to what I can’t even see, yet they keep me from soaring toward all that you have waiting for me. 

I cannot free myself. You’ve watched me struggle to break free, and You’ve seen me worn out with the trying. 

You’ve welcomed me when I came to You for rest from the fight, only to see me return to the restraints and constrictions of my own choosing. 

Come, Lord Jesus, and sever the tie. Help me to rest in Your goodness and grace, Your mercy and unfailing love. Already, I give You the praise and the glory for it. There is none like You. Amen.

Click here to listen to Even So Come from Kristian Stanfill.

The Maker

It seems to me that God has become the proverbial “elephant in the room.” He is huge and wonderful and fills the room. Everyone sees Him and tiptoes around Him and accommodates the space He takes. Like the elephant, God is obviously here and cannot be ignored, but NOBODY TALKS ABOUT HIM!! Like if we pretend He isn’t there, then maybe He will go away.

I don’t want God to go away!! I cannot even fathom what this world would be like without God’s presence. I see Him in every sunrise and every sunset. I hear Him in the birdsong early in the morning and in the sound of the waves on the shore or the rain on the roof. God is reflected in the faces of my kids and grandkids, in my mother’s smile and my sister’s goofy laugh, in my husband’s hug and my father’s work-worn hands. When my dog curls up at my feet, it’s like God is saying “I’m right here with you.” Flowers! And music!!!! I don’t even want to think about what this world would be without God’s gift of music.

So why DON’T we talk about God? What are we afraid of? What keeps us from behaving as though God were standing right next to us all day long, part of our conversations, our best friend? Why do we often treat our Maker as though He was the black sheep of our family rather than the reason we exist?? Or perhaps it’s more like the elderly aunt whom we only visit on Sunday’s and then we shout at her because she’s hard of hearing but the rest of the week we never think about her at all!

Because whether we want to acknowledge Him or not, God is here. Right here. Right there where you are. Right now. I love the passage in Psalms 139:7-12…

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

No matter how dark my world gets, God is there and always has been whether I acknowledge Him or not. No matter how beautiful and wonderful my world gets, God… in all His majesty and glory and tenderness and mercy… is there smack in the middle of it. I love my Maker and my Maker loves me.

Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

The song in my head this morning is The Maker from Chris August. It woke me up before daylight, and the cool thing is that I haven’t heard this song in weeks!! Click here to listen.

Featured image taken in Ifrane, Morocco courtesy of Karen Thomas Smith.

Appetizers

It is truly a wondrous thing to know that The Lord of the universe quiets us with his love and sings over us with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17.) It is something that I’ve come to depend on, to count on. Even more wondrous to me is that this same God knows exactly which song I need to hear!

Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by your presence Lord

As I hear these beautiful words from Francesca Battistelli singing through my mind, I have just learned that my dear friend went home to be with the Lord. After fighting for all he was worth for years, he is finally and forever at peace and without pain. And while I sing of the Holy Spirit and my desire for more of God’s presence, my friend is IN God’s presence. While our hearts long for the glory of God, my friend is basking in His glory from now until the end of time.

I am so thankful our God gives us little moments of joy in our lives that give us a glimpse of His glory here and now. An appetizer for the heavenly banquet to come. For me, nothing compares to watching my grandchildren dance, or hearing my 7-month-old grandson laugh out loud just because. The sheer joy of sitting in my porch swing listening to the birds and smelling the sweet fragrance of the lilacs blooming, watching God paint another stunning sunset. Flowers! Reading my son’s poetry and listening to his passion for writing… Hearing another son sing and the privilege of accompanying him. Those times when all my kids are home and hearing them laugh together. Just being in the presence of my children!

Is that how God feels about us? Joyful just to be in our presence?? Holy Spirit, you are welcome here!

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

Click here to listen to Holy Spirit from Francesca Battistelli.

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.

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.

From The Inside Out

As a seamstress… Fancy word for “lady who loves to sew”… I have always found it fascinating that we work from the inside out. Whatever we are making, we construct it backwards. Right sides together, we mostly see and work with the wrong side or the inside of the fabric. And from our perspective, it’s not beautiful or fabulous. It’s necessary. It’s tedious and often just plain ugly. Looking at it from the inside doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t sew, who doesn’t understand the process. Double-stitched seams, facings, interfacing to add support, blind hems… It all sounds like white noise to a non-sewer.

I think that’s how it is with our heart-work as well. God is working from the inside out. HE understands what He sees, how all the seams are fit together, why there are snips and cuts to help shape a part of our lives, or why some extra support is needed in another area. It all makes sense to Him because HE knows the process! He knows what He is doing, whereas I just want to see the finished product from the outside, or the right side out.

I don’t think you can have one without the other. I cannot wear my favorite dress or pair of jeans without all the gut-work that went into them. I need strong seams so the jeans won’t split when I try to sit down. I want the hem on my dress to be invisible, but perfectly measured all the way around so it hits at exactly the right place on my legs. The quality of the fabric or the beauty of the design won’t matter at all if the workmanship is shoddy. But GOD is able to take this fabric of our lives and stitch it together into something beautiful. God is able to work from the our ugly inside and present to Himself a masterpiece. He sees all the pieces of us that don’t make sense to anybody but Him, and knows exactly where to cut, pin, baste, and sew. But only if I hand over the scissors, needle, thread, and thimble.

And yes, all these thoughts are pouring out of a song. The Lord woke me up at 5:00 this morning (remember I’m retired now) and Phillips Craig and Dean are singing From The Inside Out through my mind and heart as I write.

My heart and my soul,
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Everlasting,
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending,
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out

My prayer this morning is that God will take this beautiful fabric that is my life, created by Him, and make me into the garment of HIS choosing. He is the Master Tailor so, whatever it is, it will fit perfectly. Comfortably. I know I will love it. God, may I ever lose myself in bringing You praise. Amen.

Click here to listen to From The Inside Out. Words and music by Joel Houston.

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.

Broken Hallelujah

It’s hard to concentrate this morning. Coffee isn’t helping. I was up late talking with my son who is home from college, and then texting with my soon-to-be-a-mommy daughter through the night getting status updates. Her baby is on its way today!!!! I’m so excited for her and her husband, and I can’t wait to know whether I have a grandson or granddaughter. They chose to be surprised, but I don’t think any of us thought the surprise would take this long to arrive!

Babies take their sweet time, don’t they? I know that mine were all very late to arrive. Very reluctant infants… And absolutely completely and totally worth the wait!!!! It’s funny how we can wait and plan for nine months for the arrival of a new baby in the family, but ultimately God is the only one who knows when that baby will come. I have this line in my head from a song called Broken Hallelujah by the Afters.

Even though I don’t know what your plan is
I know You’re making beauty from these ashes

When I look back at the births of my own children, I can see how God had a perfect plan for their arrival. At the time, I was way overdue, exhausted, and ready to hold my baby in my arms instead of carrying around all that weight in my belly. And, believe me, there was a lot of it because my babies were all about 10 pounds except one.

But God knew better. When they finally arrived, all with different stories and different circumstances, all the waiting anxiousness and stress was gone in an instant. All the pain and discomfort receded into the background and there was nothing more beautiful or magical in my world than that precious new life in my arms. God brought this beautiful new life into my heart and my world for me to love and nurture. Beauty. God took away the pain and discomfort of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Ashes. Gods promise from Isaiah 61:3:

to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair;

There are so many times in my life when I thought I would never make it through. They say hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, I can see how God made beauty from the ashes in my life so many times. He took what I thought was not worth saving, and turned it into something wonderful and useful for His glory and honor. And for that, I can only give him my Broken Hallelujah.

I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain
On my knees, I call Your name
Here’s my broken hallelujah
With nothing left to hold onto
I raise these empty hands to You
Here’s my broken hallelujah

Click here to listen to Broken Hallelujah by the Afters.

Featured image courtesy shoutitforlife.com