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Go tell it on the mountain . . . and everywhere

Flash mobs have become a twenty-first century phenomenon, people popping up in malls or on the streets, beginning with one and then becoming many doing something creative as a group.   I’ve watched a few videos myself and wondered at the thought and preparation it must take to pull off something like this.   And I am amazed at how the crowd stops what they are doing, busy as they are or rushing to complete their tasks, to stand and watch.

It makes me ponder how I am living out my Christ-likeness.   Am I wearing it, showing it, singing it, shouting it enough to a world so that it will stop to look and see?

I think of the shepherds who were shown a great light and proclamation from the heavenlies.  They stopped their watching of sheep and went to see, to gaze upon and wonder at this baby who was laid in a feeding trough.

Afterwards, the shepherds told it, this experience of being in the presence of the Christ.  How could they not?   How can I not tell it, after coming into the Holy of holies, after having the new birth ignite new life in me, after being covered in the costly and precious blood of my Savior?

Do I shine like the stars that reflect the glory of their Creator?  Do I bear the fragrance of Christ because I have touched Him and He has touched me?  Are my hands and feet an extension of the very person of Jesus?  Is His love so filling me so that my love reaches the hearts of those close by and far away?   Do my words and actions imitate the One who is continually molding and making me into something I could never be on my own?

If I burn with the blaze of God who is a consuming fire, people will stop and look.   Just like the flash mobs grab attention and hold people’s gaze long enough to hear the Good News, I truly want my daily activity and the words of my testimony to constrain people to pause and hear the hope that is in me.

Prepare your heart to be moved as you follow me to this amazing mob of believers who are willing to shout their holy message in unholy places so that the world can hear, “Jesus has come!”   Please stay to the end.   It is well worth it.

Christmas Flash Mop:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vnt7euRF5Pg

If you watched to the end, tell me if you teared up, like I did.

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Blessings?

So many people have written wise words about suffering.  I read them and find I have nothing new to offer on the subject.  Enduring suffering is part and parcel of being alive.  The longer I live, little by little, I understand suffering’s purpose.

I think for the unbeliever it must be to draw the attention toward a God who loves and wants to offer grace and mercy.  To the believer it must be the same, to draw the attention toward a God who loves and offers grace and mercy.  Moments and months of suffering come to everyone.  And God offers Himself to us.

Instead of trying to give you my words, I submit to you a song I heard only about two months ago.  It’s message rings loud in my ear, humming its melody to my soul, speaking truth to my spirit.  It is called simply “Blessings.”  It’s composer, Laura Story, has endured her own stuggles and speaks from her experience.  I appreciate that.  Here it is: 

BLESSINGS

We pray for blessings.  We pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep.

We pray for healing, for prosperity.  We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering,

And all the while You hear each spoken need, yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if your healing comes through tears? 

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear.  And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.

We doubt your goodness.  We doubt Your love, as if every promise from Your Word is not enough.

And all the while You hear each desperate plea, and long that we’d have faith to believe.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win, we know that pain reminds this heart

That this is not, this not our home . . . It’s not our home.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life,

Is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are Your mercies in disguise?

Beautiful thoughts from a wise young women who has know her own suffering.  Hear her story at this site.

Some birds sing in the dark

I’m an early riser though I have not always been. As a teenager, I could easily sleep until noon on any given day during the summer. When I was married with children (or with an only child), I relished sleeping in on Saturdays when no one had to go to work or to school.

These days, I usually rise before dawn. Actually I like it, having the first hour of the day in quietness. Please, don’t ask me questions or require me to do chores. Make no demands of me. It is my “quiet time” to spend with Bible open and coffee cup full.

I sit where I can open a window, weather permitting; and this time of year, the weather permits it daily. I listen to the silence of the predawn. And I listen for the bird that sings in the dark. He sings before the breaking of day. He sings with the hope of morning even before a glint of first light.

I have wondered at that bird. Why does he sing alone when it is still so black outside? I realize his Creator made him for such a task. He is the one who wakes first and begins his warble. Later, others will join him. By the time the first glow of pink-orange sun rays show in the east, a cacophony of bird songs echo through the window.

Speaking of singing while it is still dark . . .

I met Mary Lou at Sunday School class when Sweet William and I first “found our place” at Little Flock Baptist Church.

Shortly after we began attending the class, Mary Lou discovered she had cancer. The dreaded C-word wrecked havoc on her body, causing her to suffer much and to lose her hair. There were weeks she didn’t have the strength to come to church. But when she came, she smiled her faith. I was drawn to her.

I know there were days when she didn’t feel like smiling or couldn’t smile. But each time I saw her, she smiled with a hope that her God was faithful even during chemo treatments.

As hair loss set in Mary Lou came to Sunday School with pretty scarves tied on her head or wearing a saucy hat that matched her outfit. And she wore that signature smile.

Mary Lou and I exchanged emails on occasion during those trying days. Hers were faith-filled and God-honoring. While I tried to encourage her, inevitably she ended up encouraging me. She was singing in the dark.

Mary Lou’s hair has grown out now, and she is a cancer survivor. Her smile still warms my heart. She is a warrior, and I have witnessed her courageous song.

More recently another friend, Sharon, heard her cancer diagnoses and expects surgery in the coming weeks. When she told me about the test results, a smile graced her lips and peace countenanced her face. Every day via email she sends me and many others a “good thought for the day.”  She is singing in the dark.

Yet another young friend is enduring the heartache of brokenness that won’t be mended.  I feel helpless as I see her world crumbling beneath her.  Still she smiles, she laughs, and she sings to the glory of her Savior’s praise though her darkness is long and unrelenting.

I am reminded of many Biblical characters who sung in the dark: Job when everything was taken from him; Abraham as he walked toward the mountain of sacrifice; Paul and Silas after a severe beating and imprisonment.

All these knew the song of the dark night.

I ponder those night singers. One sings before the break of day, then others  join in. Does the first song encourage another song, and another and another, until the air is filled with praise and worship for the God who made both the day and the night?

I want to be a night singer, one who can make melody through tears, one who can see God when it is too black to see anything else. 

The night singers encourage me to sing.  To sing when the night lasts too long.  To sing though the dawn is not in sight.  To sing because weeping may last for the night, but joy come in the morning.

Sing on, sweet singers.  Sing on! 

Sunday and the stormy sea

This Sunday morning Pastor Rodney Alexander began a series on “Navigating the Storms of Life” at Little Flock.

Storms are a part of life.  Don’t we all know that from experience?  Pastor Rodney said we are either heading into a storm, are right in the middle of a storm, or we were moving out of a storm.

One friend asked me recently if there were ever a time in my life when things were just going good, without any problems to worry about.  I said when those short periods come, I begin wondering what problem is just around the corner.  The calm before the storm doesn’t last long.

The message this morning touched a place in all of our hearts, I think.

The good news is, as Pastor Rodney admonished us, Jesus is in the boat with us.  We may think He is sleeping, not aware, or that He doesn’t care, like the disciples did.  That is far from the truth.  He cares.  He knows our every need.  And He is working all things for our good and His glory.

The service ended with a worship song, Our God.  Here are the words.  May they ring in your ears this week as you navigage your stormy sea.

OUR GOD by Chris Tomlin

Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind. There’s no one like You, none like You!
Into the darkness You shine, out of the ashes we rise. There’s no one like You, none like You!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, awesome in Power, our God! our God!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against us?

Rest in your God this week.  He is the Captain of the ship, and He will bring us safely to the shore.

 

Leave a comment, dear readers.  Are you in a storm, cominging out of one, or like me, heading into the darkend clouds?

The privilege of worship

    I am continuing my thoughts on worship today, having written about Epiphany and the gift of worship in a previous blog post. 

    On a typical Sunday morning, Sweet William and I will be found at Little Flock Ministry Center on Sundays at 8:45 am.  Bill likes to arrive early, take his seat and chat with our friend Bob who always sits behind us.  Even in a large church, we find our small group, our community of believes and familiar faces.

A little before 9 am, the band begins to play the prelude.  The worship team walk out on the stage and “worship” begins.  At least it begins in form.  How often have I stood up for the songs only to be distracted by thoughts of last week, plans for next week, questions about what is for lunch today, or observations of people coming in the sanctuary and finding their places.

I may be standing up on the outside, singing songs with my voice, but where is my heart?  Is that really worship?

One such Sunday, I had an “epiphany,” an insight into the meaning of worship, a moment of  revelation.  I began to wonder at this amazing privilege called worship.  How marvelous it is to enter into the very presence of God with my praise and adoration!

My understanding of the Jewish rules of temple worship tells me the place for the Gentile was far off from the center of it all, not in the closer arena of the chosen people of God, and definitely not near the sanctuary where the priests were serving.  The opportunity to enter the Holy of holies was zero to none.   Only the high priest entered that special place on the one day of the year set aside for the Day of Atonement.    

I let that thought sink in and then consider where I am standing today.  I am being led in a worship experience by singers and band members, proclaiming loudly and in harmony that we are in the presence of Jehovah.  And I am in awe.  The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and earth, the One who holds the universe and all of time in His hand, has extended His heart to me and invites me to come in.  The invitation is written in Hebrews 4:16.  It reads:

” . . . let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (HCSB)

Boldness is interpreted as being fearless and confident.

Take in those words. You and I can come to our Father’s throne room without fear and with complete confidence of being accepted because we are His children, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus.  We are members of the family, and family doesn’t need another invitation.  They are always welcome around the Father’s table.

The Jewish law instructed the people to come into Jehovah’s presence with an offering or a gift.  I read in places like Exodus 23:15 and 34:20 that God told them not to come empty-handed.

As a new covenant believer, I don’t bring the blood of bulls or goats, I don’t bring a meal or a drink offering.  What I do bring is my sacrifice of praise.  That is my gift to Him, my worship.  Just like the wise men, it should be what I offer first.

Standing there in the pew at church I realize I am afforded the greatest benefit, the most enviable of all invitations, “Come unto Me.”

I answer that request and I come, bringing my heartfelt praise, my adoration, my thanksgiving and worship. May I never take this precious privilege for granted.

Tell me about your worship experience.  Please leave a comment.

Wedding bells

 

I attended a wedding last week, smack dab in the middle of December. Actually I played the organ for the ceremony. This sweet young bride had picked some very classical and traditional songs, Canon in D, Bach’s Prelude in C, Bridal Chorus, and Wedding March. She knew what she wanted. I had to wonder if this bride had dreamed of a Christmas wedding since she was a little girl.

There is an electrical tension in the air the hour before the service starts. The photographer caught a few candid photos along with some specifically posed shots.  The videographer (now that’s a 21st century word) set up the tripod in preparation.  The wedding coordinator was a flurry of activity.

The groomsmen were ushering in guests, and the groom himself nervously paced about. I had to imagine the room where the bride and her court were making final touches to make up and hair.

The music started, the candles were lit, and it was now or never for the bride and groom. The bridal party marched in. The four children came down the aisle and performed their parts perfectly. They went to sit with their parents during the remainder of the ceremony, a wise decision. Children can steal the show with their cute, childish antics.

The color theme was red, of course, with bridesmaids dressed in beautiful red satin dresses. The church’s holiday decorations of Christmas wreaths and seasonal greenery blended beautifully.

The bride marched in on her father’s arm and the groom’s eyes were on her and her only.  The mothers dabbed their eyes with a tissue.

From my vantage point on the organ bench, I usually have a bird’s-eye view of the couple as they stand at the altar and repeat their vows. They have stars in their eyes, looking dreamily at each other as they repeat things like:

for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”

If they are anything like I was at my wedding, I expected that there would never be another really bad day. After all, we were entering into wedded bliss, and just like the movies, we would live happily ever after.

Not!

The bridal couple never expects “worse” or “poorer” or “sickness.” They expect the path to be paved with rose petals, endless meaningful conversation, and romance every evening. They don’t count on bad hair days, sour moods, angry words, in-law problems, or where to spend the holidays. Who even expects the exorbitant cost of car repairs, a maxed out credit card, or the rising price of groceries and gasoline.

It’s probably best we don’t know the future, or we would gasp in fear and run the other way. God in His wisdom keeps our future a secret known only to Himself, promising His grace and His presence for the journey.

As I sat listening to the young bride and groom confess their love for one another and make a commitment for life, I prayed they would fight for their marriage, that they would not give up when it got hard, and that God would help them remember their promises.

Marriage is not to be entered into lightly. It is a covenant we make before God and these witnesses to love each other no matter what.  It isn’t easy to do.  But it is worth it when we arrive at those 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th anniversaries.  A committed marriage is a legacy we leave our children and our children’s children.  It proves to them it can be done and that they can do it too.

 

There are no final words I can give on marriage. But there are a few things I’ve learned during my almost 39 years of marriage to my Sweet William.

  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness – often.
  • Pray for one another daily.
  • Go to church together.
  • Seek godly counsel when necessary.
  • Try to understand the other person.
  • Love with deeds when the warm fuzzy feelings are missing.
  • Hold hands and laugh a lot.
  • Don’t let anything or anyone come between your hearts.
  • Keep only to each other.

And ask God to help you love like He loved you. It’s the only way it can be done.

Immanuel – The strong God with us!

I love listening to Christmas songs whether it be on the car radio, through the computer at work, or on the stereo system at home. I have an eclectic collection of Christmas CDs. I begin playing them soon after Thanksgiving – but not before. You know how I am.

Some of my favorite Christmas songs are the ones that declare the name of Christ as Immanuel (sometimes spelled Emmanuel). You can probably hum and few bars of your favorite song right now.

Do you recall this one? O come, o come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

One carol made popular by singer Amy Grant says,

Immanuel, Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor

Lord of life, Lord of all.

He is the Prince of peace, Mighty God, Holy One.

Immanuel Immanuel!

Matthew 1:23 tells us, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  (NIV)

Immanuel, God with us. I can rest in that proclamation, lie down and sleep peacefully, walk with courage during the day knowing my God is with me.

I love discovering new things in God’s Word, nuances to meanings of familiar passages. Recently I found out the word Immanuel literally means “the strong God with us”. Now that gives it an interesting twist.

The strong God came to be with us through Jesus.  At the same time, He showed His humility, strength under control, by taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and found in the appearance as a man, so says Philippians 2.

  •  The strong God, able and willing to provide salvation – yet coming in the form of a helpless infant child.
  • The strong God, not afraid to call a hypocrite a hypocrite – yet letting the little children come to Him.
  • The strong God, fearlessly clearing the temple of buyers and sellers – yet allowing Himself to be touched by bleeding women and prostitutes.
  • The strong God, speaking the Word of God with authority – yet speaking not a word in His own defense at the mockery of a trial.
  • The strong God, calming the stormy sea – yet having to be awakened from sleep because His humanity was weary.

The strong God, Immanuel, is with me, with you even now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. I am encouraged and strengthened by His grace to carry on.

Fellow traveler, the strong God is with you today.  And whatever you tomorrows may bring, the strong God will be with you there also.

Let us walk in the faith and confidence that this one Word, Immanuel, promises.

” . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20 – NIV).