Start a Fire

We left the city of Copenhagen today for a few days visit north at the shore of a fjord. Aside from being stunningly beautiful, it is windy and chilly. After days and days of rain, we finally have a hint of sunshine, but the chilly wind cuts through. Back at the house after a long walk, my son-in-law lays a fire in the stove in the corner of the living room. After just a few minutes, the cold and chill of rainy damp days is gone. Warmth fills the room, and suddenly we are cozy and drowsy.

Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

This song, Start A Fire from Unspoken, has been in my head for days now, singing out a prayer for a God to start a fire in MY soul. I’ve started this same post three or four times and only after our adventures today does it become clear to me.

No matter how far we go outside our own territory, no matter how beautiful or stunning the scenery before us, no matter how tempting the world and all it has to offer, it can be cold. And bitter. And chilly, windy, damp, and downright insufferable at times. Only when we come home to The Lord, home to the truth of God’s word and permit God to “start a fire” in our souls are we able to get warm and dry. To feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit and relax into the coziness of Jesus arms. To crawl up in His lap and be renewed and restored.

But we aren’t meant to stay there – all cozy and warm. We come in from the cold, bitter world to get warm by the fire of God’s love, and then head back out into the World again so that others will see Jesus in us and want to come and stand by the fire of the love of God.

Click here to listen to Start a Fire by Unspoken.

Featured image: the fjord in north Denmark. We don’t have these in Kentucky, y’all.

 

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Instincts

Copenhagen is a beautiful city and seems to be fairly easy to navigate by foot. We’ve walked all over the city in different directions, but (so far) I have managed to find my way back to the apartment. And if I do happen to get turned around or lose my bearings, I don’t have to wander aimlessly hoping for rescue… I can ask for directions or look at my map. Or I can trust my traveling companion. If I’m walking with my husband or my daughter, I can trust that they know where they’re going and how to get there.

These were my thoughts this morning when I woke up to Unspoken singing Who You Are in my head. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far
That you can’t get back. When you’re lost,
Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much
That you can’t change Who you are.

The Holy Spirit is my traveling companion in this life until I find my way Home. It doesn’t matter where I walk or how far I go, I can always get back. It’s never too late. What I’ve done or said is never so bad or so much that I can’t change who I am and be what God wants me to be. I’m never alone in this life as long as I’m walking with and trusting The Lord to guide me. I can ask for directions from His holy word… I have the Bible as my guidebook. It’s all mapped out for me, if I’ll take the time to look.

My newborn grandson is snoozing close by while I write this morning. I’m watching closely and listening for his precious newborn noises, ready to pick him up and hold him close at the first sign of distress. He isn’t aware that I’m here, but he instinctively knows that I will care for his every need and he trusts me. I believe God is right here with us as we walk through this life, watching and listening for any opportunity to pick us up, hold us close, and comfort us. We just have to trust… From the deepest, most instinctive part of us.

Click here to listen to Who You Are by Unspoken.

I posted about this song in early June from a different perspective. Just like music you love to listen to, God sometimes lets me hear a song more than once, and teaches me new things. Click here to read Who You Are.

One Thing Remains

Rule number one in a house with a newborn: If the baby ain’t sleepin’, ain’t nobody sleepin’! Especially not his momma. I watched her all night with her baby boy, up and down, nursing, changing, rocking, burping, quieting, changing, feeding, on an endless loop. She’s a natural. Born to be a momma, though her younger brothers may have a different opinion about that, she has a naturally quiet way with her son. Quiet whispers, gentle soothing sounds, confident hands-on nurturing and loving and caring for her baby until he can care for himself someday. (And it won’t stop there!)

“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” I woke up with these words in my head from Kristian Stanfill’s song, One Thing Remains.

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me

In death, in life
I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid
There’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love

God’s love never fails us. Ever. Like a new mother, God has a naturally quiet way with his children. He speaks in quiet whispers, gentle soothing sounds, confident hands-on nurturing and loving. His Holy Spirit guides us in the way we should go. When we are stressed, in pain, struggling to hang on, God is there in the middle of it, carrying us through until we can stand on our own. In the middle of it all, one thing remains. God’s perfect love.

Click here to listen to One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill.

Featured image: I love baby hands!! This is Samuel’s hand in mine. And as precious as it is to hold his sweet perfect hand in mine, it cannot compare to how God holds my hand, my life, in his hands.

Build Your Kingdom Here

I think I watched the news a little too long last night. Technically, I wasn’t watching. My husband was watching the news, and I was listening as I quilted. Another beheading by terrorists that nobody can seem to do anything about. Ebola virus at an all-time high and now within our own borders. Air strikes. Politics and more politics. And so much more!

Clear as a bell as my eyes opened this morning, I heard Rend Collective singing, “Come set our hearts ablaze with hope, like wildfire in our very souls. Holy Spirit come invade us now!” Lyrics from Build Your Kingdom Here. It feels as though there has never been a time in our history when we needed God to build His Kingdom here on earth more than we do right now. All over the world, people are desperate for what Jesus came to bring… LIFE in all its beauty, and all that gives life. Food, shelter, clothing, water, love, hope, and peace. And, above all, to know the Giver of Life.

Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” How will they get what we, as Christians, already have if we don’t take it to them? If we don’t bring the Kingdom of God TO them? I love the words to the chorus in this song.

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Change the atmosphere! Right where we are, we can change the atmosphere in our homes, our offices, our schools, our gyms or wherever we spend time. Refuse to participate in the negative. Ask questions of others, and then listen to the answer. Overlook small offenses. Make it about others rather than ourselves.

I don’t think any of us can understand how different our worlds would be if God were to truly show his mighty hand. But don’t you want to try? Don’t you want to see the Darknesses of this life run and hide in fear of God’s mighty hand? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if terrorist organizations ceased to exist? Or if there were to be a cure and a vaccine for Ebola?

God, come set Your rule and reign in our lives. Set Your church on fire! Set our hearts ablaze with hope like wildfire in our very souls! Heal our streets and lands. Bring your Kingdom here, and show us how we can participate. Show us how to be Kingdom-Bringers.

Click here to listen to Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective. I love their tag line… “Homemade worship by handmade people.” Isn’t that great??

Featured Image: courtesy findingthelight-charlene.blogspot.com

Just breathe

Breathing. It’s the one thing every human on earth does every day, all day long. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathing is intrinsic to human existence. Without the ability to breathe, we die.

A few interesting facts about breathing…

The lungs are enormous. The right lung is larger than the left lung to accommodate the heart. The left lung is made up of two lobes while right is made up of three lobes.

If you laid out the lungs flat, they would cover a tennis court ( about 70 square meters!)

When we breathe, we are either right nostril dominated or left nostril.

Breathing more slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce your appetite.

We naturally change sides in our sleep approximately every 30 minutes, mostly due to the balancing of the breath through each of the nostrils.

An average person breathes in the equivalent of 13 pints of air every minute.

So no matter HOW we breathe… through our nose or mouth, our right or left nostril, deeply or very shallow… WE BREATHE. My question is WHAT are we breathing in? What are we breathing out?

All these thoughts are brought to you by the song in my head this morning. Never Once by One Sonic Society.

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

One of my “coping strategies” has been to breathe deeply and imagine that I am breathing in the Holy Spirit with the good fresh air and breathing out all the negativity and bad feelings when I exhale. Breathing in God’s constant grace and mercy. Breathing out praise to God for his unfailing love. It never fails to turn my mood, my situation, my day completely around a full 180 degrees!

Click to listen to Never Once by One Sonic Society.

Featured image: Central Kentucky, first morning of Fall, taken by my friend, Dennis Wheeler.

Silent

Sometimes I’m speechless. I know that’s hard to believe, but I am a quiet person. Soft spoken, given to long periods of quiet, thought-full. My brain is running all the time, and my personal challenge is to channel all that brain activity.

“Though I’m silent, my heart is crying ’cause I was made to come to You.” These words from Sanctus Real were in my head when I came awake in the pre-dawn morning, and they’ve stuck. The song is called simply Pray. More lyrics…

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

I’m going to take this song at its face value today. I have several people on my heart this morning, and it can get heavy. But God knows my heart, he knows my need. He knows every situation and person I’m thinking about, and I know that he is already working in those situations. Hebrews 4:16 says we can “then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

For me, “draw near” sometimes means just be still, be quiet, stop. And, in that quiet, I can be confident because the Holy Spirit has it all under control. Romans 8:26 says, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” So even if it’s just to speak the precious name of Jesus, I’m going to pray. And speaking his name is enough.

Click here to listen to Pray by Sanctus Real

I posted about this song from an Easter perspective back in April. Read Pray here.

The featured image is a shot I got in early March at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. A very quiet place.

Listen!

Listening. It’s a lost art. Our minds and ears are assaulted from the minute we wake up until we go to sleep (and sometimes even while we are asleep) with sound. We wake to music on our alarms, or in our heads as I do, we watch the morning news, listen to the radio in the car on the way to work, deal with noise at work all day, more radio or iPod in the car on the way home, kids, dogs, spouses, phones ringing, television, and sometimes we even go to sleep to the sound of the TV or radio.

We hear noise every waking moment, but when do we listen? Where is the silence in our lives? I remind my piano students all the time that the rests are as valuable as the notes in their music. Literally and otherwise. The rests in music are like the punctuation in our speech, giving room for pauses and breaks; Emphasis. Expression!

This past Spring, I used the following acronym for the word LISTEN when engaged in conversation…

L… Let the other person finish, Look at them
I… Invest time, Invite conversation
S… Speak the truth, Sit forward
T… Think before speaking, Try to understand
E… Engage brain, Ears open?
N… Never assume you know what they’re going to say, Notice!

I love the thought that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we talk. Listen to others, to ourselves, and to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us. Only when we are quiet, can we hear what someone else has to say. Only when we still our active, busy lives can we listen to our true selves. It is only in our silence that we can hear the true heart of God.

My favorite place to get still and listen is in my front porch swing. Where’s yours?

Hope In Front Of Me

It’s a gray dreary Friday, and it’s pouring rain, which is fine because it’s August in the bluegrass and we need rain every chance we can get! It spits against the window, drowning out any birdsong. They’re in hiding anyway, waiting for it to stop, finding shelter in the trees, hoping for a break in the action.

I woke up with hope singing in my mind this morning. A song called, Hope in Front of Me, by Danny Gokey. Here are the lyrics to the chorus…

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

“Hope in front of me.” What a great line! Hope, in all it’s glory and grace, boldness and beauty, is right in front of me if I will just open my eyes and see it. If I will look up instead of down, if I will reach out instead of inward to myself, Hope is standing right there, waiting for me to grab on with everything I have! Grab on, hold tight, and stand tall in the power of the Holy Spirit! That’s a promise in the scripture we can take to the bank.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:13

Click here to listen to Hope in Front of Me.

I chose the featured image because kids are our hope!

 

Dead in the water?

Remember my big surprise? Tickets for lunch and a sightseeing tour down the mighty Ohio River aboard the paddle-wheel steamer, Belle of Louisville! It was a perfect-weather, blue-sky, day, and I had a wonderful time wandering around the boat, standing in the breeze and watching the water, the people, the sky… Trying to imagine what it must have been like in 1914 when it first sailed. This October will mark its 100th birthday!!

But, it got me thinking (you knew it would!) About boats and life. Fore and Aft. Rudders and paddle wheels. Guidance and power. Both on the boat and in life, we need a fore and aft… A front and back. We need a rudder to steer us in the right direction, but at the same time we must have a paddle wheel pushing us forward. If The Holy Spirit is guiding me in a particular direction, but I have no paddle wheel of power pushing me there, then I’m not accomplishing God’s will for my life. I’m sitting still, dead in the water, unable to move forward or backward!

On the other hand I can have all the power of that great paddle wheel, churning through the water, pushing me forward, and run myself aground in a heartbeat without a rudder. Without the Holy Spirit to guide me, without God’s word pointing me in the right direction, without Jesus Christ as my compass then all that power is useless. It just pushes me toward rocks of discontent, muddy and miry banks of disobedience, and over the falls of selfishness and pride right into… ME. Myself. I. Me-ism. The whole “what about me” mindset that I struggle so hard to overcome.

I love the feel of the breeze on my face and in my hair and the sound of the paddle wheel churning through the water. I love the big sound of the ship’s horn and the smell of the water in the breeze and popcorn from the concession stand. And as Paul stated so perfectly in Philippians 3:13-14…

forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Full steam ahead!!

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