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!!!

Hands

As a pianist, my hands are my most valuable asset I suppose. I’ve never been able to stand pain in my hands of any kind, and the thought of injury to my hands has always given me the shivers. Hands are both delicate and strong. With our hands, we give and take, push and pull, love and bless others. I’ve always been fascinated with hands, sketching them, photographing them. Baby hands are so very precious!! And my hands have become a way for me to communicate with my deaf friends through ASL.

Please read this article by Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E, M.D. called Made in His Image: The Connecting Power of Hands. After finishing the last bit, I will never look at my hands the same way again.  

 

The morning after

I love the morning after a big snow. Everything is blanketed in soft white, and all the world seems hushed and still. This morning, the sun is bright and it’s as though God bedazzled his creation with beautiful diamonds… Just scattered them across the top once He was satisfied with the way everything looked down here. After covering the earth’s scars with snow, and covering us with His forgiveness so that our old self is no longer visible, our precious Lord gives more… Little jewels of grace and goodness.

It renders me speechless and I can only stand at my window and stare. And thank God for His goodness.

The morning after
Jewels, diamonds on snow
A gift of God’s love

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Snowmageddon

We are in the middle of what some are calling “snowmageddon.” We have three inches on the ground this morning and 10 to 12 more expected before tomorrow morning. Outside my studio window, the sky is gray and it’s hard to tell where the sky stops and the ground starts. The wind is so strong, the snow is “falling” sideways… So horizontal to the ground, that I wonder how any of it is actually ON the ground. Somehow, though, it has covered the brown muddy earth with all its ugliness, and made it clean. White. Pure. God’s Gesso!

As a painter, I use a product called Gesso to prime a surface or to start over. It’s a thick, heavy-bodied, white paint-like substance that seals and stiffens the canvas, covering anything on the surface I’m prepping. Sometimes I’ll use it on a practice painting that I know I won’t keep or need again. It’s a do-over. I can start again with new paint, new colors, even a new medium to create another painting. Anything can become a canvas with Gesso… A nice box with a magnetic closure, a wood panel.

I once read in a poem
That when snow covers the earth
That it hides the world’s scars
And gives nature new birth
And they say when a
Man turns from sin to the Lord
That forgiveness like snow
Covers him evermore

I love the lyrics to this song. Somewhere It’s Snowing. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that, just like snow falls and blankets the ground with pure white, clean and fresh, the grace of Jesus covers our sin. It disappears beneath the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord and Savior, and we are made new. All of our dark, ugly, gray, broken, scarred imperfectness is gone beneath the blanket of God’s goodness and grace.

1 Samuel 16:7 says this… “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If my heart is covered by the grace of Jesus, the blood of His atoning sacrifice, then my heart is fresh and clean before God when He looks on it. He sees the snow-covered beauty within me, and I think maybe what’s underneath doesn’t matter any more.

Click here to listen to Somewhere It’s Snowing by Lynn Michael Coffey.

Featured image… I took the snapshot outside my window just now, trying to capture the sideways snow.

It’s Not About Me

Satan wants you to quit praying. He wants you to believe God isn’t paying one whit of attention to you. That He’s moved on without you. That you don’t matter. There’s only one thing to do with that. Pray twice as much. With twice the faith. And a thousand times the thanks. -Beth Moore

This is one of those mornings that my mind is all over the map, but everything in it is screaming at me to pray. Focus on others. What is God calling me to? The song in my head is Start A Fire by Unspoken.

This world can be cold and bitter
Feels like we’re in the dead of winter
Waiting on something better
But am I really gonna hide forever?

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
Let Your light shine, let Your light shine for all to see

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

At the same time, I had words in my head that prompted me to write this verse…

It’s not about me
It’s not about me
It’s not about my fears and failures
It’s not about my hopes and plans
It’s not about what I want or need
It’s not about my desires or dreams
It’s not about who I want to be
It’s not about me

Cause if I know you, Lord
You know my every thought
And if I love you, Lord
Your love fills up my heart
If I remember You
You will remember me
And fill my every need

The above quote from Beth Moore came from an email I received this morning, after being awakened by Start A Fire and writing the verse. In that blog post, she also said, “Intercession for others becomes a guard against the narcissism of this present culture.” If I pray for others, it keeps me from thinking too much of myself, because it’s NOT about me.

It’s so incredible to me how God has thrown all this at me at the same time this morning!!! I can’t ignore it. Pray! Pray now. Keep praying. Pray for others. Pray for myself. Pray continually. Pray with thanksgiving.

Start a fire in me, Lord, because it’s not about me. Don’t let my prayers or my love for others grow cold, dull or boring. Light me up!!! Set my heart on fire for others who need You so desperately. Though it’s nearly overwhelming, thank You for throwing it all at me this morning. Help me not to let You down. Amen.

Click here to listen to Start A Fire by Unspoken.

Click here to read the full blog post on Prayer from Living Proof Ministries.

I chose the featured image because it reminds me of 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?” It is oil on 140 lb paper, 2.5″ by 3.5″, artist trading card.

Somewhere It’s Snowing

I woke up this morning with a song in my head called Somewhere It’s Snowing, and when I got up and went to the kitchen, there was snow on the ground!! Not much, but some. How cool is that?? I’ve sung this song and accompanied it many times. So beautiful! Here are the lyrics.

I once read in a poem
That when snow covers the earth
That it hides the world’s scars
And gives nature new birth
And they say when a
Man turns from sin to the Lord
That forgiveness like snow
Cover him evermore

And somewhere it’s snowing
See the soft drifting down
As snowflakes surrender
To the hardening ground
Like the good grace of Jesus
That now covers our sin
In the kingdom of heaven
It’s snowing again

And its told that the angels
Lift their hearts and rejoice
When one traveler turns homeward
On his way to the Lord
If somewhere someone’s turning
And he’s giving his all
Then God’s grace
Like the snow
Is beginning to fall

I haven’t thought of this song in years, but I love the lyrics. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that, just like snow falls and blankets the ground with pure white, clean and fresh, the grace of Jesus covers our sin. It disappears beneath the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord and Savior, and we are made new.

1 Samuel 16:7 says this… “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If my heart is covered by the grace of Jesus, the blood of His atoning sacrifice, then my heart is fresh and clean before God when He looks on it. Amen and amen!!!

Click here to listen to Somewhere It’s Snowing by Lynn Michael Coffey.

Quietude

It’s the time of year when I start making lists and checking things off just to keep my head straight. I even add things to my list that I’ve already completed just so I can cross it off!! Anybody??? Life gets more complicated this time of year, and my complications seem to have multiplied for some reason. I’m a nurturer by nature, so it’s easy for me to find myself taking care of everybody else and forgetting to brush my teeth!

One thing on my list will stay on my list no matter how insane my life gets… My morning time with God. Somehow, the rest of my day just goes better if I start early, coffee in hand, Bible open, studying God’s word at my little desk in my studio. My Father meets me here. He waits for me. He knows I’ll be late some mornings, and He knows I’ll be distracted more often than I care to admit. It doesn’t matter. God has a lesson prepared for me each morning, even though I may not know what it is beforehand. I finish my study time feeling… quieted. It’s like while I am working through my Bible study or writing, God is making order out of the chaos in my heart and mind, putting all the thoughts and feelings back into their proper place and perspective so that I can move on with my day.

I will say it now, and as often as anybody will listen, IT IS INVALUABLE!!!! How did I not know this 20 or 30 years ago?? How did I ever raise four kids or work full time with a couple of part-time jobs, or be in a marriage relationship without this closeness with my Lord? Not to mention the sheer joy in having this time of perfect silence and quietude. I know I could have used the quiet and peace countless times over the years. They say God never gives us more than we can bear. I think God never gives us more than HE can bear!

In the stillness of my studio at 6:00 in the morning, God takes all my anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and condemnation, most all of which is self-imposed, and places it right at the feet of His Son. Like the words to the song in my head this morning.

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be

Unworthy. Undeserving. Humbled.

Click here to listen to Lauren Daigle sing her song, How Can It Be?

Click here to read a previous post about this song.

Rain

Rain happens. When you’re traveling, you like to think it won’t rain, that the weather will be perfect wherever you happen to be. But in reality, it rains. And in Copenhagen, it rains a lot! My husband left this morning to fly home, and our walk to the metro left us and his luggage soaked through.

These people are undaunted. Folks are out as usual, walking and riding bicycles. The difference is rain gear and umbrellas. The wet doesn’t bother them in the least, and life goes on as usual. Working, shopping, traveling… As though there is no rain.

No rain. What if we lived our lives in every respect as though there is no rain. Nothing to slow me down. No rain. Nothing to give me an excuse to live my life and move forward. No showers of discontentment. No thunderstorms of “if only.” They happen, but what if we went about our daily lives anyway? If I feel discontent, but cook dinner and do the laundry anyway? If we could turn our “if only” into “in spite of”…

Rains come. Sometimes they feel like typhoons in our lives where everything hits at once, but we don’t walk through them alone. God walks with us, and “sends the early and the late rains” so that we will mature in proper time and season. If it’s raining in your world, grab a raincoat or an umbrella, tuck your head down, and head out the door anyway. Our lives move on, and it’s not how we live our lives on the sunny days… Anybody can make life look easy when everything’s sunshine and roses. What matters is how we live our lives out before others when the rain comes.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

Featured image: we took a boat tour through the canals of Copenhagen. Even though it was raining when we started, the rain stopped and the sun smiled down for a while. I’m glad we went anyway.

Music to my Ears

After months of waiting and talking about what’s to come, my newest grandchild is finally here. A precious baby boy, so soft and warm, who already has his Grandmomma wrapped around his finger.

We arrived yesterday after a series of uneventful flights. My daughter’s beautiful new family met us at the airport… Waving a Danish flag! It was so good so see her again after almost a year, and to give her a huge hug. And to finally hold my daughter and then my newest grandson, only five days old.

I crashed on the couch for a short nap after a busy day of catching up, long walks, doctor appointments and more. I was awakened from my travel-foggy sleep by Samuel’s crying. Hungry and ready to eat, he was letting his momma know it’s supper time. And it was music to my ears!! There’s just something so pure and holy about a newborn’s cry.

I still cannot look at a newborn baby without thinking how good and how awesome is our God. All the fine details… Long fingers and toes with all the joints. Tiny little ears, so delicate and small. Seeing features in this baby that I saw in my own children at birth, yet so similar to his daddy’s features at the same time.

How God must love us and trust us to make us co-creators with Him. I can’t help but think of these words from the 139th Psalm.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

And just like Samuel’s crying, God’s word is music to my ears.