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!!!

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.

Focus

The chorus from a song called The One I’m Running To woke me up this morning. The song is from 7eventh Time Down, and the lyrics have me thinking… Do I run to Jesus or just look at Him occasionally? Do I walk in His general direction or run to Him like I’m being chased by the Devil himself? If I’m honest with myself, I’d say it’s more of a jog or a trot. Not exactly meandering on the path of my faith walk, but not running hard after Jesus either. 

Tonight I’m gonna fix my eyes
On the only Hope who satisfies, my heart
You are the One I’m running to
Everything that’s good and right and true
Jesus, I’m coming after who You are
You are the One I’m running to

The thing is, we are ALL being chased by the devil himself. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “…the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” If I’m just wandering along aimlessly on the path of life with no general direction, I am easy prey! But if I’m running after Jesus, if He is taking the lead in my race in this life and I am following His every step, every promise… Well, I believe the devil will have to work much harder than he wants to or is willing to, and just maybe will go after someone else for a little while. Until the next time I take my eyes off the only Hope that satisfies. Until I forget the enemy is hard on my heels and I get lazy. 

So, how do I keep my focus? I strap on my spiritual running shoes and look up!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:8

Click here to listen to The One I’m Running To.

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.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve is hard for me. I’m sad and melancholy, lonely for my kids. Times change and they grow up. They leave the house and suddenly Christmas Eve is no longer filled with giggles and anticipation, scurrying and hiding to wrap gifts, bedtimes full of sugar plum stories and the Grinch. I miss those things and so much more. That first inkling of understanding that maybe Santa is something different, something more. The sheer joy of dumping a stocking full of candy and toys and combing through to see what treasures are there.

Our Christmas Eve is quiet now, preparing food for tomorrow’s brunch and wrapping gifts to the sounds of Its A Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. The quiet is broken by worship services… mine and his. We are both church musicians, so Christmas Eve is a busy evening, but I can’t think of a better way to spend it than in worship of the infant King who’s birth we are celebrating tonight. Emmanuel. God with us.

And what a stocking full of treasures we find in that gift! Love. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Hope. Joy. Just to name a few. Gifts that we never have to take back. Gifts we can open again and again, if we open our hearts to the Messiah. Gifts that take my loneliness away. Gifts that bring peace to my spirit and joy to my heart.

My service is over. His is beginning. Both lovely, both churches full of music, full of scripture telling the nativity story, full of people seeking the King whom the angels heralded so long ago. Finding what only He can give, the Word made flesh.

And dwelling among us. Still.

To God be the glory!!!

All You Need Is Love

It didn’t attack her, but her heart decided to take a little vacation now and then without warning. Her heart was broken, but not beyond repair. After 24 hours, two ambulance rides, three doctors, one physicians assistant, several excellent nurses, three worried kids, one scared-out-of-his-mind husband, and countless family and friends praying across the country and around the world, my mother’s heart has been surgically repaired and seems to be back to work.

All through this stressful process, I saw love. Everywhere. Expressed in little ways and in ways that were nearly my undoing.

The nurse at the first hospital who went the extra several miles to get her the right doctor, the best and fastest care possible.

Several people who happened to be in the hospital with their own friends or family, who came by to check on mom and dad, to bless them, to pray with them.

People who drove in from other cities, just to check on her and keep Dad company while we waited.

Every smile on every face… Every time we had questions or needed anything, we were met with people whose only focus at that moment was meeting those needs with grace and kindness.

Phone calls and texts from those who could not be with us.

Stories and laughter exchanged while we waited. And waited. And waited.

My mom’s hand sneaking out from under the blankets to take hold of my dad’s hand for a moment, just making sure he was still there. He has.. For over 60 years.

The sheer relief on dad’s face to see her awake and talking after surgery, knowing she was going to be okay.

The song in my head this morning is The Beatles singing All You Need Is Love. And I think maybe they’re right. Without love, we are nothing. Love believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Love is all around us if we look for it.

Click here to listen to this classic song.

Love Take Me Over

🎶Love, take these words that I’m speaking
Love, take these thoughts that I’m thinking
Love, take me over
Love, fill up all of my space and
Love, stand right here in my place
Love, hear this prayer that I’m praying
Love, take me, Love, take me over
Love, take me over

If you haven’t heard this song from Stephen Curtis Chapman, click here to listen to Love Take Me Over. It’s running through my head early this morning, lifting my spirits. I love the lyrics for the second verse…

This is what I’m sure of, I can only show love
When I really know how loved I am
When it over takes me, then it animates me
Flowing from my heart into my hands

So I’m praying, Father, help my heart believe
That right now You’re singing over me
And fill me up with Your love 🎵

What a simple truth! I can only show love when I really know how loved I am. Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I don’t think any scripture more beautifully describes love than 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Here’s what I think. God cannot go against His own character and His own word. God is perfect love (1 John 4). By loving ourselves and loving others, we abide in God. I saw one definition of abide that said “continue without fading or being lost.” So if I love myself, and I love others, then I will continue in God’s perfect love… It won’t fade… I won’t be lost in the cracks. If it’s not a loving thing to do, then don’t do it. Period. Because every time we do something UNloving, I think Satan scores another point for his team.

Love above all things. Love take me over!!

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

You Raise Me Up

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post about a song called, Hope Can Change Everything (read it here.) This little post is my number-one-viewed on the blog. Every day somebody will bring it up on their computer because they searched for “who sings hope can change everything.” Or they want to know who wrote it, or to find the lyrics for this song performed by the K-LOVE Fan Awards Artists. (Listen here.)

People need hope. People are searching for hope. People are looking for a Home for their hope… A place their heart can rest and feel at ease. A place where they feel secure and safe in their hope. For me, that hope rests in my one and only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As I write, these words come to mind…

Till my hope finds a home
I will call upon you Lord
Till I don’t feel alone
In this ever-changing world
Until my heart finds peace
Until my mind can rest
I will call upon You, Lord

Is there any better place to put our hope? Is there anyone else more worthy to be the Keeper of our hope? The chorus to Hope Can Change Everything says it

Reaches in the heart
Of your darkest night
Lifts you off the ground
When you’ve lost the fight
Keeps you hanging on
Through the disbelief
Every day, every step, every dream
Hope can change everything

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus does? He reaches into our deepest part and lifts us off the ground into his sweet embrace. The song in my head when I woke up this morning was You Raise Me Up as recorded by Selah (hear it here.) Jesus raises us up and gives us hope, so that we can stand on mountains.

When I am down, and oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until You come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up—to more than I can be

You Raise Me Up words by Brendan Graham and music by Rolf Levland

I captured the featured image while vacationing this summer in the Smokey Mountains. I love how it looks like the light of heaven is shining down into the gray mist.