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.

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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.”

Never-Ending Story

Adolescence can be a roller coaster ride for parents and child. Ups. Downs. Highs. Lows. Emotions running amuck. My mom and dad may have a different opinion, but from my perspective, my teenage years were relatively calm ones. I spent most of my time in those years on the piano bench accompanying a gospel quartet.

My mom sang alto in the Gloryland Way Quartet out of Round Top Baptist Church in the heartland of Kentucky. For a tiny church, there were some fabulous voices. The pastor (who was all of 22 maybe) sang bass. We had a fabulous tenor, another who sang lead, and my mom rounded them out with her wonderfully rich alto voice. I started playing piano at the church regularly when I was 13, so I played for them as well that first time they sang together for a Sunday service.

We “performed” all over the place in countless churches at revivals, homecomings, singings… Being a teenager, I’m sure I complained about something. Honestly though? I loved every moment of it! They had such a great time practicing that it was impossible to be miserable. They treated me with respect and kindness. They treated me as an adult, and they valued what I was doing for them. This is tremendous when you’re 14 or 16. While my peers were going to the movies, hanging out together at football games, or whatever they did, I was playing piano for this little group of friends who made me feel special. Important. Valuable.

I played for them and for the church until I went away to college. The pastor was called away to another church. My mom and dad moved away to their current home. The lead singer has passed on into Glory. The tenor remains there at that little church, serving and working. My mother still sings in her church choir. And I still sit on that bench.

Yesterday, I had a little taste of this memory. The quartet I work with now was invited to do the entire morning service at a little church in eastern Kentucky. It brought back so many memories! And it felt so natural to be there, in that little church, playing gospel music with my friends who love me, value what I do for them, and treat me with respect and kindness. We had so much fun! It’s hard to be miserable with friends who make you laugh.

We closed the service yesterday with the song that’s still in my head this morning. Loving God, Loving Each Other. “making music with my friends. Loving God, loving each other and the story never ends.” Because if we keep telling The Story of Jesus and his priceless gift, it will never end. Because once you have Jesus, you want to tell the world! We just choose to do it with music.

Sleepless in Kentucky

I can’t sleep. Can I stay here with You? You’re the reason I can’t sleep anyway, You know. I mean, I tried to sleep. But I was just keeping my husband awake with all the trying… the tossing and turning and shifting. But You’re heavy on my mind, so I thought I might as well get up and come talk to You.

How do You do it? How do You overwhelm me so completely? You show me every day how much You love me in the little things like this morning. Flowers, birds, crickets, breezes, wind chimes, coffee… I am blessed every day by these and so much more. But lately You have blown me out of the water with Your love and grace and mercy!

Only this week, You have shown me how Your love is like a waterfall that I have been standing behind. You’ve kept me there, safe and sheltered from the world. But something (You?) compelled me to step up into the falling water of Your love, to let it wash over me. I’m not even drenched yet, and it’s almost too much! It’s too beautiful, to wonderful for me to think about.

Your Grace showed up and Mercy came along with it. That was on Wednesday. Well, today they were back with a double portion! You sent me exactly what I needed at 5:00 and I was grateful. At 8:00 You threw in an extra helping, and at 9:00 You added dessert with whipped cream and cherry on top! My heart is full to overflowing… So much so that I can’t sleep for thinking and rethinking how You’ve loved me this week.

What does it look like when I love You?
What does my heart say?
Do my soul and mind and strength
Reveal who I am in You?
What does it look like when I love You?

I want the world to know how crazy in love with You I am, and how much You love me. Because it’s not a quiet love. It’s not a keep-it-to-myself kind of love. It’s a BIG wrap-me-up-in-mercy-and-never-let-me-go kind of love. The kind that can only come from You. You are perfect love.

Thank You for pouring Your perfect love into my imperfect heart. For washing me in the water of Your Grace and Mercy and showing me just a tiny little glimpse of Your beauty. I love you, God!!!!

Good night.

Waterfall

I’ve never been to Niagara Falls. I’ve always wanted to go, and I hope to get there some day. I’ve been to several other waterfalls including Hawaii and Tennessee. In Kentucky, Cumberland Falls is beautiful! IMG_0733.JPG
I love walking behind the waterfall… Standing back there with a torrent of water making a wall between me and the world. Cool. Refreshing.

The instant my eyes opened this morning, my spirit was in the middle of Chris Tomlin’s Waterfall.

Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Running wild and free
You hear my heart when I call, when I call
Deep calls to deep
Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Raining down on me
Waterfall, waterfall

Just like standing behind that waterfall, God’s love pours down on us, hides us, makes a wall between us and the “world,” refreshes us. His love is BIG. And if we allow ourselves to stand in its full force, it will flat-out knock us down and drench us in the overwhelming, all-consuming love of the Most High God. I could use that today.

Cumberland Falls photo by my friend, Kathy Duncan.

Featured image: Niagara Falls evening, Bing.

Click here to listen to Waterfall by Chris Tomlin. Note: This is also an ASL version 🙂

Walk Worthy

I am the product of an oxymoron. I was raised in suburbia by country people. My parents were born and raised in western Kentucky, but we were born and raised (mostly) in suburban Detroit. We heard that slow southern drawl at home, but the short, quick, sharp northern accent at school and in the neighborhood. Our Kentucky cousins teased us mercilessly about it when we visited once or twice a year. A country raising in the city meant we had a little independence… Playing with our friends up and down the street, not beholden to a clock, not stuck in the house.

But we knew when it was time to come home. My dad would step out onto the little front porch stoop and whistle. Once. Didn’t matter where we were in the neighborhood, we could hear that whistle and knew we better take off running for home. If we didn’t hear it? Well, that meant we were someplace we weren’t supposed be and that was trouble of its own.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 says we are encouraged and charged to “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Our God gives us independence and free will to walk with him on this planet, serving those he places in our lives. God calls us to himself. No, it’s not my daddy’s whistle but, as believers, we know his voice. And if we can’t hear it? Maybe we’re someplace spiritually or emotionally where we aren’t supposed to be.

My dad held me accountable for my actions. He made me feel safe and secure. He still does. I haven’t heard him whistle for a long time, but we have great conversations. Who holds us accountable now? Who in our lives charges me, so that my walk and my speech reflect Jesus? I don’t think I’ll ever get too old to need that person, that friend, that mentor who can steer me back onto the path.

I’m hearing the eternal harps again this morning in my head. I posted recently about this song, Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal. Click here to read Heaven!

The featured image is the house where I grew up in Michigan, taken last year on a visit. My dad built that garage. A few exceptions… the tree was a sycamore, the car was a Pontiac station wagon, the front window was a picture, not a bay, and that’s the porch where dad would stand and whistle for us. Calling us home.

Forever Fields

The first year my husband and I were married, he arrived home after a trip and found the living room completely rearranged, including my piano. (My husband is a Georgia boy, and I’m a Kentucky girl… And there are a few differences.) He asked me, “Who moved all this for you?” Now, to this Kentucky woman, that was a pretty ridiculous question. “Nobody moved it for me… I moved it myself!” You see, his genteel-southern-lady momma would never dream of moving heavy furniture, and called a man to do it for her. I, on the other hand, come from West Kentucky pioneer stock where the women work as hard as the men and sometimes harder.

I am a strong woman, though all that piano moving could be why I ended up with two spine surgeries in less than two years. But in tough situations, I seem to be the “strong” one. The dependable one, the one people lean on and talk to. I don’t mind being strong, in fact I’m thankful for it… But all things considered, I’d rather be faithful.

I’ve been pondering this, and here is what I think.

Strong depends on me.

Faithful depends on God.

I can be strong all day long and never take a step toward faith in God. OR, I can be faithful all day long, and never need to be strong on my own. And in those situations that require strength and tenacity, my faith pulls me through. Philippians 4:19 says that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Every need. Wants and needs are two different things, but when I need to be strong, God provides.

I’m not sure what all this has to do with the song in my head this morning. The one line running on a loop is, “We were made to run through fields of forever” from Stephen Curtis Chapman’s song, Glorious Unfolding. And it just occurred to me that being strong won’t get me to those forever fields. Being strong doesn’t get me a front row seat to watch that glorious unfolding. Never permitting others to help, holding onto every ounce of control I think I have, running on empty because others are depending on me, won’t get me to God’s throne room. Only being faithful to the God who made me.

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Click here to hear Glorious Unfolding

I recently posted about Glorious Unfolding. Click here to read it.