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.

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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.

Pray

God called me in my sleep last night. Or this morning. I’m never sure which it is when I wake up so early with a very specific song lyric in my head and my heart. Was it the wee small hours of the night when all the house is quiet and dark and I’m in a deep restful sleep? Or was it those few moments before waking, when it seems that there is just the thinnest veil between this world and the next?

Though I’m silent, my heart is crying
‘Cause I was made to come to You

This line from Sanctus Real was singing through my mind as I opened my eyes this morning. Pray. That’s the name of the song. Even in my sleep when I am the most silent and still I ever get, my heart cries out to God, because that’s how it’s designed to work by the very God to Whom my heart cries out! His beautiful design is for me to love Him all day long, and in return God gives me a song in the night.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
– Psalm 42:8

I must have read this verse a hundred times in my life, but this is the first time I ever really understood it! The song my precious Lord sings over me in my sleep is The Holy Spirit teaching me how to pray (Luke 12:12, John 14:26)… A prayer to the God of my life. And all God asks is for me to love him when I’m awake.

So, this morning I’m going to pray, just like the chorus to the song says, even if it’s just to speak the name of Jesus.

So I pray
God I need You more than words can say
Right here in this moment
You know my heart, You know my need
You know every part of me
So even if it’s just to speak Your name
I’m gonna pray

Love Him all day. Listen for your song in the night.

Click here to listen to Pray from Sanctus Real.

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.

He Knows

Hello, my name is Martha and I’m a food-a-holic. I have been addicted to food since I was a little girl. It has been my solace, my comfort, my best friend at times. It has also been my downfall, bringing obesity and super-sized health issues along with super-sized clothes. It has been my master and my lover. Unfortunately, my being a food-a-holic has never been a secret, because it shows up in my gut and in my “full figure.” Every time I self-medicated the pain and hurt with donuts or cheeseburgers (note the plural) eventually showed up in a required shopping trip to up-size my pants.

By the grace of God, I am now a recovering food-a-holic having dropped the bulk of my weight several years ago (only because diabetes reared its ugly head.) I have learned to make better choices and decisions. And mostly, I have learned to depend on the Giver of Life instead of a pepperoni pizza for my comfort and joy. But it will always be there… That desire for what everyone else is eating. And have you watched television lately? It’s a terrible place for people like me. They can’t do commercials for cigarettes or alcohol anymore, but food?? Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t watch.

I have known and loved people who struggled with alcoholism, and somehow it was always a surprise. It was hidden. From the outside, everything seemed fine. No telltale signs to the untrained eye. The struggle is within, and deadly. Food, on the other hand, is both an inward struggle and a real physical struggle. It stretches the elastic on our pants and our pride. It bursts the seams on our skirts and our self-esteem. It pops the buttons of our shirts and our shame, bringing us to a new low.

BUT… “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) He knows every struggle I have fought with food my entire life. Every time I ate “one more” cookie, or the entire large popcorn at the movies, Jesus saw and loved me anyway. HE KNOWS. Nothing is hidden from God!! And I’m so thankful and grateful for it.

The song in my head this morning is He Knows from Jeremy Camp.

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low
how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…

I will struggle the rest of my life with overeating, but I won’t be alone in my struggle. The closer I am to The Lord of my appetite, the easier it is to push my plate away and get up from the table. To see food as the life-sustaining thing it was intended to be by the God who provides it. The closer I am to Jesus, the easier it is for me to hear His Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “that’s enough for now.”

Click here to listen to He Knows from Jeremy Camp.

Being addicted to food has made me a great cook, and a lover of anything for my kitchen. The featured image is a shot of my Fiesta ware plates. I’m not sure I have enough!

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.

Winds of Change

Wind blows fierce and strong
Sweeping clean, clearing debris
Nature’s do-over

A little weather haiku this morning. The wind is formidable this morning! I don’t know if it’s blowing something in or blowing something out. If there were any leaves on the trees, there aren’t now. They’ve all been blown off and away. The ground has been blown clear of any leaves that were there. My wind chime is no longer singing the sweet simple song of summer, but has reached a crescendo of protest that it must work so hard. The birds have all taken shelter in the trees, afraid to fly… Or at least understanding it would be pointless today.

The “winds of change” are blowing both physically and metaphorically. I’ve been faced with a heart-wrenching decision in the last few weeks, and, in many ways, it feels as though I have been blown by a strong wind straight toward my ultimate conclusion. It’s a strange feeling… To be pointed straight toward something, feeling the push of the Holy Spirit from behind, knowing God is steering me toward an inevitable end but still praying and wanting to be sure it is God’s will and not my own.

But here are five things I know.
🎶My gift comes from God. He can do with it what he chooses.
🎶God will use me wherever I go. My job is to be obedient.
🎶His plan is so much greater than my own. Trust!!
🎶Change can be painful, even good change.
🎶I have to let go of what I’m holding so tightly in order to receive the goodness God has waiting for me.

So I will go where He sends me, and thank Him for the privilege of serving a new congregation… For the joy of serving that congregation with my husband. And I will thank Him for the many friends and church family who go with me in my heart… who will always be in my heart.

The wind chime in my heart is struggling to keep up with all the change. But God is good, and He alone can and WILL set it ringing once again with a sweet song of His own choosing.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Departures and Arrivals

Leaving hurts. Even if what you’re going to is exactly where you want to be, it still hurts to leave (insert person, place, or thing here) behind. Yesterday, I had to leave my beautiful daughter and her family behind in Denmark and make my way back to Kentucky and home. Home is where I need to be, and I was excited to come home. But it hurt so badly to leave them standing on the other side of airport security, the baby sleeping in his daddy’s arms with his quilt wrapped around him.

Knowing when to leave. It’s a valuable skill. I went to be a help to my daughter with her new baby. I cooked meals and cleaned the kitchen, helped with laundry, and took care of the baby so she could sleep some. I cherished the time we had together, talking and sharing the “how to” information every new momma needs from her own mother. Precious time. But I couldn’t stay forever (even though I could’ve rocked that baby at least another month!) She is already a great mother, and I needed to come home so she can get on with raising her child.

Jesus knew it was time to leave. He had been walking with his disciples every day, dust collecting in their sandals. They had been learning “how to” bring God’s kingdom here on earth… “How to” live without him all along and hadn’t realized it. When the time came for Jesus to return to his Father, it was painful for those left behind. Jesus said himself in John 16:7, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

Hindsight is always so much clearer. Jesus knew his friends and followers were too dependent on his physical person, but they didn’t know it. They didn’t know how strong they were, or how much they had learned until Jesus was gone, and they had to put into practice everything he had told them. And I think it hurt Jesus to leave them, too. After all, he had poured himself into them… Spent every day with them… Shared every meal, laughed and cried with them… But it was time for him to go Home.

I’m thankful Jesus left the Holy Spirit here with us, our comforter, our helper. And I’m thankful for technology! Skype and other smart phone apps allow me to talk to my daughter, see her face and watch that baby grow. It helps take the sting out of having to leave.

I have a Carol King song in my head this morning. “Where you lead, I will follow. Anywhere that you tell me to.”