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!!!

Ready or not…

I am NOT ready for Fall. Autumn. That beautiful season of the year, at least in our part of the world, when God paints His creation in gorgeous golds and oranges and reds, and the temperatures drop enough that I pull on a sweater or jacket. I am NOT ready to put away my flip flops and shorts. I am NOT ready for short days and long nights… for Halloween decorations or planning Thanksgiving dinner. But ready or not, here it comes! It’s Fall, y’all!! 

What AM I ready for?? Birthdays for my Dad and three of my grandchildren are in the Fall. Making pumpkin pie and pumpkin roll for my family. Frost killing off the ragweed is high on the list. Riding my bike in cooler weather means longer distances and gorgeous scenery. Mums. A fire in the evening to take the chill out of the air because we don’t want to turn on the heat yet. The whole family and more coming together around several tables at Thanksgiving. It’s mayhem and I love every minute of it… Just not the planning part ;).

The song in my head this morning is Kristian Stanfill’s Even So Come. 

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

Since I was a kid, I’ve been playing and singing Jesus Is Coming Soon, an old southern gospel song. Forty years later I am still waiting. But I’m ready!! I gave my heart to Jesus a long time ago, and I have tried to serve Him the best way I know how through the years. Sometimes I got it right. Sometimes I didn’t. But we have walked this journey together, usually with Him carrying me!! I have longed for the day when I see His precious face. I may not be ready for cold weather or the holidays, but I AM ready for You, Lord. And until that day, use me. Make me an instrument of Your peace. Even if I have to wear a jacket to do it.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Click here to listen to Even So Come. 

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

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.

Going Forward

We are living in an exciting time to be a Christian! We are also living in a terrifying time to be a Christian. One of my favorite authors and teachers has written a timely and pointed blog post that I think is a must-read for anyone who calls themselves Christian. Please read Going Forward by author and teacher Beth Moore. And then go forward to church. Forward to scripture, forward to prayer, forward to loving the way Jesus loved and still does.

 

I LOVE FOOD!!

Seems like I’ve been on a diet since I was born. I don’t remember a time in my life (whether it was self-imposed or brought to my attention by well-meaning others) when I wasn’t conscious of what and when I was eating, how much, counting calories or carbs or Weight Watcher points. Being super careful because something might be bad for me or make me fatter. Or eating with complete abandon in defiance of the real truth that (insert deliciousness of the day here) will ultimately kill me.

I remember doing Richard Simmons Deal-a-Meal and Sweating to the Oldies. Anybody? There was that phase where I ate no fat AT ALL but gorged on jelly beans and pasta because it had none. And then there was the polar opposite Atkins or South Beach with no carbs, but I could eat all the fat I wanted. Remember that awful cabbage soup or grapefruit diet? And please don’t even get me started on the whole exercise thing! I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained hundreds (yes, HUNDREDS) of pounds in my lifetime.

But here’s the thing. I LOVE FOOD. There. I said it. I love to eat food, and the smell of food. I love to cook. I love the way food looks on the plate and how beautiful fruits and vegetables are in their luscious-ness and colors. I love to read about food and talk about food. And, let’s face it, our whole lives revolve around food. Socially, we make food the center of family gatherings or meeting up with friends. And in the church, particularly in the South, there’s one word… Potluck!

Jesus cooked for his disciples… Fish and bread by the water. And He was known to them after His resurrection in the breaking of the bread. He ate with publicans and sinners. Food was key in so many of the Jesus stories, and all the Bible. We are designed to hunger and be fed. It all boils down to WHAT we are hungry for and being fed by. Or should I say WHOM? Because I think my struggle in life has truly been a search for that one bite of something that will satisfy the hunger in my soul… That will fill the God-shaped hole in my heart.

So today, again, I’m starting over. Matthew West’s voice woke me up this morning singing Day One. 

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made lots of progress through the years, and generally I’m healthier and smaller than I was years ago. I’m learning to lean on God for what I need and to enjoy His gift of my love for food for what it truly is… A way to serve others. But today, again, I’m giving it all to God and trusting Him to lead me through. Because food is everywhere!!!!

Click here to listen to Day One from Matthew West.

Featured image: Cherries, acrylic on 140 lb. paper, artist trading card.

Small

I think the perfect remedy for being full of yourself is a trip to the seashore. The ocean makes me feel so small and insignificant. It pulls me out of myself and makes me see that there is so much more in this world than my little human eyes can see or my tiny human mind can imagine. How could I not be humbled by these sunsets?? And starfish. And the sheer volume of seashells washed up on the shore is incredible.

As I watch the sandpipers forage in the foam at the water’s edge, or see the pelicans soar, dive and fly away with their catch, I think of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:26…

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

The thing is that sometimes I don’t feel like I’m more valuable than the birds… I feel small and insignificant. Often I feel worthless and wonder what on earth I’m here for! On my own, I am nothing. If I believe the lies of the Enemy, I am nothing. If I believe all that the world throws at me, I am nothing. But God has other plans. (Don’t you love that phrase?? “But GOD!”) This morning, I bring it all to Him.

I’m feeling so small
Standing here weeping
As I’m coming clean
Of the secrets I’m keeping
I’ve caused so much pain
To the ones I love the most
And I’m falling apart
As I carry my heart to Your throne

I am completely surrendering
Finally giving You everything
You’re my redeemer, I run to the cross
Because You are more than enough
Lord complete me
Cause I’m Yours completely

The song in my head all night and still now is Completely from Among the Thirsty. Click here to listen and worship on this blessed Lord’s Day.