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!!!

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.

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.


I fell

My back is jello. WAS jello… until Dr. K. fixed it through two different spine surgeries within 18 months. Discs have been replaced, arthritis cleaned out, scoliosis straightened up, a broken vertebrae pinned down… He did a fabulous job! Three years later, I can do almost anything I want and I don’t think much about my back at all except to respect the weightlifting limits, and to “listen” to the signals I get from my spine. 

But last week, one of my worst fears was realized. I fell. I’m not a runner and never was. I have been a walker, but it’s not my favorite activity. While I go to the gym because it’s necessary, I’m not a gym rat. My husband, on the other hand, is a charter member of our gym and should have a gold key!  No… For me it’s the sheer joy of riding my bike in the outdoors. Struggling up the hills, and coasting down them with the wind in my face and the sun on my back. For a little while, everything is right with the world. I’ve been working on building my stamina and endurance, and had doubled my miles. 

But I fell. In my own yard. I hadn’t even sat down good on my seat yet! I prepped like always, took off like always, but the grass was wet and the wheels slipped to the right. I fell left… Onto my left side. The good news is that I fell into the grass and not the gravel. The bad news is that I broke a rib. The shoulder and clavicle are just bruised and sore. I will be fine, but I had no clue how painful a broken rib could be!! 

But isn’t that the way it is for all of us?? We are going along in our lives, doing what we always do the same way we always do it, and then we slip. We fall. We hit a slick spot on our journey and our spiritual and emotional wheels slide out from under us. We find ourselves careening toward the hard ground at an alarming rate with no way to stop ourselves, knowing it’s going to hurt when we finally land.

We’re all broken but we’re all in this together
God knows we stumble and fall
And He so loved the world He sent His son to save us all 

These lyrics from Matt Maher’s song, And All The People Said Amen, were singing over me when I woke up this morning. It’s funny… When I fell off my bike, I laid there in the wet grass on my back doing a body check. The first thing I thought about was my back and how falling is NOT an option for me. I made sure all the parts of me were still moving and not in pain… Feet and legs? Check. Arms and hands? Check. Neck okay? Yes, I can turn my head both directions without pain. But I couldn’t get up. The wind had been knocked out of me and that rib pain was searing through my side. I’m thankful and grateful for soft grass instead of gravel. That someone was there to help me up. That I was in my own yard rather than out on the road several miles from home. 

God knows we are going to fall sometimes. But He so loved this world that He sent His only Son to save us, if we believe. When we crash and hit the ground, Jesus is there to pick us up. Maybe the big thing is to fall INTO the arms of our Savior, and let Him catch us. It’s a much softer landing than the cruel hard ground of the world. He will lift us back to our feet, brush us off, heal our wounds, and bring us back to Himself.

And all the people said Amen
And all the people said Amen
Give thanks to the Lord for His love never ends
And all the people said AMEN!!

Click here to listen to And All The People Said Amen.

What color is love?

Maybe it’s the artist in me, but I LOVE COLOR!!! In everything… walls, dishes, clothes, sunsets, flowers… God has created the most beautiful colors imaginable, and some I’m sure we cannot imagine and will only realize when we reach our heavenly home. But this morning, I’m stuck on red. Blood red.

All night long, The Lord was singing the same words over me. I have a broken rib from a bike wreck last week (another story for another time) so I’m not sleeping well these days. Every time I woke to turn over or get comfortable, Chris Tomlin’s song At The Cross (Love Ran Red) was singing through my head. And it won’t stop.

At the cross

At the cross

I surrender my life

I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You

Where Your love ran red

And my sin washed white

I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Jesus

My love can run blue if I’m lonely. Or yellow if I’m happy and silly. Or white when the momma bear comes out in me. And even pink and red when my husband is around. But Jesus’ love is that deep, dark blood-red. The red that flowed from his sides. The blood-red that flowed from his hands and feet as He hung on the cross. The red that mingled with His sweat as He waited for His Father to end His agony and take Him home.

And because His love ran red, my sin is washed white as snow. I am made pure and perfect in the goodness and grace of God’s son. A blinding white… A white that blocks out everything except the One who gave Himself up for me.

And I am forever changed. And forever grateful.

Click here to listen to At The Cross (Love Ran Red) 

What’s Different?

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. August 1st was the one-year anniversary of my retirement, which got me to thinking about the last year and how things are the same and different from then to now… About everything that has happened in the last year, and everything that hasn’t. I even made a list, which I’m prone to do, and it looks so different in writing than it does in my mind. In fact, my list for what is different, and for things that have happened since last year, is so very much longer than my list for what is the same and for things that haven’t happened.

I think this is a good thing. I’m not a person who accepts change very quickly or well. I’m a “Who moved my cheese?” kinda gal. But now that I see it in writing, I’m thinking maybe one of the biggest differences since last year is ME!! I’m healthier and stronger. I’m using my creativity and gifts more than ever. I have more and stronger relationships and friendships. And when I look at everything God has done in the last year to GET me here, I am overwhelmed by His blessing.

It’s amazing what can happen when I say YES to God. When I open myself fully to what He has in store for me. When I spend more time in His presence getting to know Him more and more. New opportunities to stretch myself with my art and music. Travel. A new church home where we are working and serving together and where we are seeing the Holy Spirit move. A new business. My new bike that gets me out there and loving life. New grandchildren!

There are a couple of things that I wish had changed in the last year, like the number on my bathroom scale or my pants size. But some things may never change. And I am eternally grateful that one of those things is that God loves me. And how God sings over me. That Jesus saves… He still does!! And that I can take anything and everything to The Lord in prayer and know without a doubt that He hears me.

The song in my head as I opened my eyes this morning was a piece of the third verse from What a Friend We Have in Jesus. 

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee.

Thou wilt find a solace there.

That’s another thing that I’m so glad will never change… I will always find solace in the arms of my Savior.

Can I get an AMEN??

I love you all.

Featured image: my lovely daughter-in-law dancing on the beach. A beautiful expression of God’s unchanging love in motion. ❤️ Photo credit: Emily Price

No substitutions.

There are some things in this life that I cannot or will not compromise on… Only the real thing works for me. No substitutes. Coffee! Must have a cup (or two) of sure enough fully leaded French roast in my cup in the morning. Butter. There is nothing like real butter in my recipes and on my toast or biscuit or corn on the cob or French toast or baked potato (you get the idea.) For some things, there just aren’t any substitutes for the genuine article… like flowers. Or smiles! And what about a real, honest-to-goodness bear hug?

There is no substitute for the love of God. When I woke up this morning, one line of lyric was singing loud and clear in my head.

Don’t think you need to settle for a substitute 

When I’m the only love that changes you

It’s from Drops in the Ocean from Hawk Nelson. I blogged about this song several months ago from a different perspective. Read it here. Sometimes, the song God sings over me is complete and lovely. But sometimes, like this morning, it’s one line and it comes in loud and clear! God’s love is the ONLY love that changes me. THERE. IS. NO. SUBSTITUTE. 

I am saddened that I had to be reminded about this hard and fast truth. So it’s got me thinking very early this morning, with the sun coming up on the fog-dampened bluegrass. What have I been substituting for God? What have I put in His place in my life? And, most importantly, what am I going to do about it? His IS the only love that changes me, frees me, makes me better. I can love others because He first loved me. No substitutions.

Thanks for the reminder, God. 

Click here to listen to Drops in the Ocean from Hawk Nelson.

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.

Touch The Sky

Grounded. We don’t much like that word. It brings back memories of being stuck in our room when our friends are not, privileges taken away for a week or a month depending on the offense. Flights get grounded, usually when we are desperate to get someplace fast, and we’re stuck in the airport with no place to go and no way to get there, sometimes with bad weather raging outside the windows making us feel hopeless, cut off. 

The song in my head this morning says otherwise. Touch The Sky from Hillsong UNITED was singing in my head when I woke up this morning making me feel like anything is possible! The opposite of hopeless, really.

My heart beating. My soul breathing.

I found my life when I laid it down.

Upward falling. Spirit soaring,

I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.

If the definition of “grounded” describes a person who is sensible and has a good understanding of what is really important in life (merriam-webster.com), then please… Ground me, God!! Let my knees hit the ground regularly and often! If I find my life when I lay it down for Christ and for others, then what in the world am I waiting for??

1 John 3:16… By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

John 15:13… Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Luke 9:24… For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

Events in our world, our country, and even right here in my tiny home town are huge red flags waving at all believers… Get grounded!! Hit your spiritual knees and call on the One True God who is able to make order out of the chaos running roughshod over us all. Then get up off your knees and put yourself aside and serve somebody else. Go lay down your life for somebody, because that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and for me.

Ok. I’m done preaching now. Please go listen to this song. Touch The Sky from Hillsong UNITED.

Featured image: I took this picture off my front porch a couple of days ago. Gorgeous day, and a great reminder to look UP!!