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!!!

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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

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.

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.

Wait for it…

I’m not a good waiter… As in “one who waits.” Patience is NOT my best thing. I’ve gotten better at it through the years, but there’s not as much to wait for! As a kid, we waited for everything… Christmas, birthdays, dinner, dessert, play time, school to start, school to end, and (dare I say it given the last few weeks in Kentucky?) snow days… How often we were told to be patient! 

Easter is my favorite holiday and my favorite day in the church year. So the Lenten season seems interminable for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Lenten hymns and their sorrowful beauty. I love the lyrics and all their meaning as they carry us toward the cross. But Easter morning? Nothing compares. So this Lenten time of waiting for the joy of the resurrection is hard for me. I’m not supposed to sing Alleluia, yet my heart still sings “He Is Risen!” I know I’m supposed to select songs of the cross for prelude or offertory, but can I help it if I’m drawn to jazz arrangements??

For me, one of the joys of being a Christian is knowing the end of the story!! Yes, Lent helps me remember Jesus and the sacrifice He made for me; but since I’ve accepted His precious and gracious gift of salvation, I am His. My future is secure. I know my final destination and Home is where my heart is. I cannot be sad during this time of Lent. I can only look forward to Easter morning when we finally, unabashedly, and with our whole hearts can say HE IS RISEN!!! ALLELUIA!!!!!! 

Click here to read Easter Thoughts, another post about the joy I feel at Easter time… There are many ☺️

 

I Will Arise

My morning quiet time with God is really important to me. I try not to let anything get in the way of it, or to move it to another time of the day. Seems like if I don’t get right up to my desk first thing with my coffee, then it doesn’t happen at all that day. I get distracted and busy and the next thing I know a whole day has flown past.

Several mornings in the last week, I have come awake with a very old Southern Harmony song in my head. In 1759, Joseph Hart published Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. Now in public domain, it’s a classic hymn of the church. With six verses and a refrain, it’s one of those invitation hymns that could go on and on. But the sound of the refrain is what woke me again this morning.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in his arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

I have several piano arrangements of this classic. My favorite is the Mark Hayes, but I’m also working on a jazz arrangement by Larry Shackley. No matter which one I play, I sing the words in my head as I move through the music. The definitive stands out to me… I WILL arise, I WILL go to Jesus. He WILL embrace me. There ARE ten thousand charms. Not maybe. Not a chance that my Savior might embrace me. Not a possibility of Jesus love and affection. Matthew 11:28-30 says,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

It’s a for sure thing. A done deal. I will arise and keep my morning appointment, because He WILL be there waiting for me. 

Click here to listen to Come Ye Sinners (I Will Arise) from Martha Bassett.

Featured image, oil on canvas, winter sunrise, Martha Robertson 2003.

 

 

Captive Audience

February 2015

Snowmageddon. Snowpacolypse. The Great Blizzard of 2015. Our little bitty 15 or 18 inches of snow is nothing compared to the northeast with their several feet of snow. Everyone around here is tired of looking at it and talking about it. The best thing about a snowstorm like this? It has given people the opportunity to help others. Mr. B came and got us for church. Our neighbor brought his tractor and plowed our driveway down for a second time so that (hopefully) we can get our car out today. People checking on folks to make sure they’re okay and have what they need.

I had an entire week, from Sunday to Sunday, here at home with no thought or hope of going anyplace. My husband is a teacher, so he didn’t (and couldn’t) go anyplace either. We enjoyed just being in each other’s orbit for a few days with all the outside stuff out of the picture. Reading quietly in the same room. Playing chess. Chatting over a meal we cooked together. Watching a movie. Shoveling snow. You might say we were a captive audience for each other. No place to run!

I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence
I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me

Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me

I have Chris Tomlin’s song, Jesus Loves Me, running through my head this morning. Jesus brings me back to himself. His love overwhelms me. There is no place I can go to escape His love for me. And why would I ever want to escape the love of a Savior who gave His own life for mine?? I am (gladly) His captive audience!!

Click here to listen to Jesus Loves Me.

The featured image is the result of one of my activities while snowbound this past week. “Windows” is oil on linen board, 8 x 10

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.

Part The Waters

I think every mother gets those moments in life when she feels overwhelmed with love for her child, about to pop her buttons with pride. “How was I lucky enough to be this kid’s mom?” I’ve had those moments through the years with all my kids. Watching my oldest graduate from the United States Air Force Academy. Sending my daughter off to the mission field, knowing she was following God’s call on her life. Reading my youngest son’s poetry does it every time. Too many to count.

I had another “momma moment” yesterday morning at church… The great privilege of accompanying my third child, Daniel, as he sang in worship. Now, I know every mom is proud of their children, and we all think ours are the perfect kids. That said, I will tell you that all my kids can sing, and they’re all musical in one way or another. They all grew up singing in church, and I encouraged them all to share their gifts with others. And Daniel did just that yesterday.

So this morning, the song in my head is the one he sang. Part The Waters/I Need Thee Every Hour. Originally recorded by Selah, it’s a powerful arrangement. It opens with these lyrics…

When I think I’m going under, part the waters Lord
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea
When I cry for help, oh hear me Lord and hold out your hand
Touch my life… Still the raging storm in me

… And moves into the traditional hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour.

I need thee every hour most gracious Lord
No tender voice like thine can peace afford
I need thee, oh I need thee
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now, my savior
I come to thee

I need thee every hour in joy or pain
Come quickly and abide or life is vain
I need thee oh I need thee
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now, my savior
I come to thee

It is a very good thing that I was playing the piano and required to focus on the music. Otherwise, I’d have dissolved into a puddle of tears as I listen to my son’s powerful voice cry out these words to the God who loves him… who cared enough for him that He would send His only Son to die for him. Who among us does NOT need The Lord every hour of every day? Because the moment I think I don’t need God is the moment it all starts to fall apart.

When I climb out of the boat onto the waves to walk toward Jesus, my eyes are fixed on Him and I know I can do anything. But when I start to think how impossible my task is, or feel the waves of life rising up around me, I know that God can part the waters and give me a dry place to land. He hears me when I cry out to Him. Only He can calm my storm.

The quality is poor because it was recorded on an iPhone… But please…. Click here to listen to Daniel sing Part the Waters/I Need Thee Every Hour

Click here to listen to this arrangement from Selah.