Even So Come

I freed a butterfly yesterday. The poor thing was trapped in a spider’s web outside the kitchen window. Its wing had been caught at the top edge, just enough to keep it trapped but not enough to stop it altogether, so that it was more tethered than trapped. This beautiful creature would take off as if to fly away from its bonds only to struggle and flap its wings to no avail, rest a while, and then repeat the agonizing process again and again.

I couldn’t stand it. I pulled a pair of scissors out of the drawer and carefully opened the window. The butterfly continued its “take off-struggle-rest” cycle so that it was difficult to get the scissors in the right place. During a brief rest period, I was able to snip the strand of web that was keeping the butterfly stuck in the spider’s snare. In an instant, it was soaring high and fast, farther and farther away from its earthly trappings, finally free to be the creature God made it to be.

As I opened my eyes this morning, a line from Kristian Stanfill’s song, Even So Come, was singing over me and through me.

Every heart longing for her King

We sing

Even so, come

Lord Jesus, come

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from this web that is keeping me from being the woman You created me to be.

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from the tethers that hold me to my old life, my earthly life, my selfish and sinful life… Chains that bind me to what I can’t even see, yet they keep me from soaring toward all that you have waiting for me. 

I cannot free myself. You’ve watched me struggle to break free, and You’ve seen me worn out with the trying. 

You’ve welcomed me when I came to You for rest from the fight, only to see me return to the restraints and constrictions of my own choosing. 

Come, Lord Jesus, and sever the tie. Help me to rest in Your goodness and grace, Your mercy and unfailing love. Already, I give You the praise and the glory for it. There is none like You. Amen.

Click here to listen to Even So Come from Kristian Stanfill.

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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.

The Maker

It seems to me that God has become the proverbial “elephant in the room.” He is huge and wonderful and fills the room. Everyone sees Him and tiptoes around Him and accommodates the space He takes. Like the elephant, God is obviously here and cannot be ignored, but NOBODY TALKS ABOUT HIM!! Like if we pretend He isn’t there, then maybe He will go away.

I don’t want God to go away!! I cannot even fathom what this world would be like without God’s presence. I see Him in every sunrise and every sunset. I hear Him in the birdsong early in the morning and in the sound of the waves on the shore or the rain on the roof. God is reflected in the faces of my kids and grandkids, in my mother’s smile and my sister’s goofy laugh, in my husband’s hug and my father’s work-worn hands. When my dog curls up at my feet, it’s like God is saying “I’m right here with you.” Flowers! And music!!!! I don’t even want to think about what this world would be without God’s gift of music.

So why DON’T we talk about God? What are we afraid of? What keeps us from behaving as though God were standing right next to us all day long, part of our conversations, our best friend? Why do we often treat our Maker as though He was the black sheep of our family rather than the reason we exist?? Or perhaps it’s more like the elderly aunt whom we only visit on Sunday’s and then we shout at her because she’s hard of hearing but the rest of the week we never think about her at all!

Because whether we want to acknowledge Him or not, God is here. Right here. Right there where you are. Right now. I love the passage in Psalms 139:7-12…

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

No matter how dark my world gets, God is there and always has been whether I acknowledge Him or not. No matter how beautiful and wonderful my world gets, God… in all His majesty and glory and tenderness and mercy… is there smack in the middle of it. I love my Maker and my Maker loves me.

Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

The song in my head this morning is The Maker from Chris August. It woke me up before daylight, and the cool thing is that I haven’t heard this song in weeks!! Click here to listen.

Featured image taken in Ifrane, Morocco courtesy of Karen Thomas Smith.

It’s Personal

The song in my head this morning has been there all night. It kept me from going to sleep. It was there every time I woke up, which was often, and it’s one of my favorites. These words humble me. The music forces me to sing harmony, and I can never get through this song dry-eyed. So rather than copying the lyrics in song form, I’ve written them as though I were speaking them, because that’s how I always hear this song.

How deep the Father’s love for us! How vast, beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss! The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulder. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything… No gifts, no power, no wisdom… But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection! Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer, but this I know with all my heart…His wounds have paid my ransom.

It’s personal, this thing Christ did for me. His death on the cross was not some grand gesture for all of mankind as a whole. It was God’s love for ME that nailed Jesus to that cross. It was MY life He was saving! Everything I am and everything I hope to be is because of HIS immeasurable love lavished on me. His wounds paid my ransom. I am free. Unchained. Unfettered. And forever grateful.

Featured image: the dogwoods have been spectacular this Spring in Kentucky. This picture focuses on the tree with the blooms as a bonus. If we focus on the tree on which Jesus died, the cross, we get the bonus of His love and mercy, His forgiveness and grace.

Click here to listen to the Selah version of this gorgeous song.

Click here to listen to the Phillips, Craig & Dean version.

Break the glass!

I’ve seen cardinals peck furiously at glass, almost fighting the enemy bird they see in the reflection. I’ve had mockingbirds on my windowsill, preening and keeping watch. But never a robin. Robins seem to me to be ground birds, or at least that’s where I usually see them hopping along, pulling at worms or whatever they happen to find in the grass.

There’s a robin on this same second-story windowsill this morning. Facing me, his long beak lightly kisses the glass almost as if he is testing the image to see if it’s real. After a time, he turns and looks out at the world, keeping vigil, slowly looking right to left. Then the whole process starts over again. This little bird has come and gone, repeating this cycle, 3 or 4 times in the last hour.   

I think, for some of us, our faith can be just like the robin and the glass. We face God, testing Him, pecking at His image to see if it’s real, if it can be trusted. If HE can be trusted. But we turn away and face the world, looking in all directions for something to sustain us. Finding nothing, we turn back to God and test His image again. The whole process repeats itself because there’s a glass wall between us and God Himself. We can see Him, and we want to get to Him, but something blocks us.

What is your glass wall… That invisible, yet very real, thing that keeps you from getting to the God you can see and Who loves you with an everlasting love? A past hurt that just won’t let you forget? A relationship you know God wouldn’t approve of so you turn away? An addiction that has you locked down, unable to break through the glass? Or is it the fear of breaking the glass itself? Of getting hurt in the process?

Break the glass, dear one! Power through and gut it out. Yes, you will get scraped up a little. You may even get cut, but Jesus is standing ready to hold you in His arms and heal your hurt. He has scars to match your own. He is watching us test the image in the glass. Don’t let Him see you turn away again. Break the glass! Tear it down and feel His grace and mercy.

Click here to listen to the song in my head, Cry Out To Jesusfrom Mac Powell and Third Day.

Because He Lives (Amen)

I woke up to daylight and birds singing this morning. I love that early morning quiet sound of the house before its business as usual. I heard the sound of planes soaring overhead and my dogs anxious to go outside. And in my head, Matt Maher was singing this verse to his song, Because He Lives (Amen).

I WAS DEAD IN THE GRAVE
I WAS COVERED IN SIN AND SHAME
I HEARD MERCY CALL MY NAME 
HE ROLLED THE STONE AWAY

Mercy called my name. I love how God sings over me while I sleep and gives me a thought that will stay with me all day. Today “Mercy called my name” will stay in my heart and give me light and hope when I need it.

AMEN
AMEN 
I’M ALIVE
I’M ALIVE
BECAUSE HE LIVES
AMEN
AMEN
LET MY SONG JOIN THE ONE THAT NEVER ENDS
BECAUSE HE LIVES

I am alive because Jesus lives. I know we are not yet to Easter and He is Risen, but HE IS RISEN! As Christians, we must let the whole world see the joy of the risen Lord written all over us!

BECAUSE HE LIVES
I CAN FACE TOMORROW
BECAUSE HE LIVES
EVERY FEAR IS GONE
I KNOW HE HOLDS MY LIFE MY FUTURE IN HIS HANDS

Amen. Amen.

Click here to listen to Because He Lives (Amen).

 

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!!!

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.