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Sing your song

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Music was part of my life since I can remember. My mother sang in a church trio when she was young and then became a soloist later in life. She could belt out a song. As I grew to be more accomplished on the keyboard, I was her primary accompanist.

My dad did not read music but played piano by ear (the reason my mother was determined I have lessons). He could touch almost any instrument and make music with it, be it a recorder, harmonica, banjo or guitar. He played something he called a sweet potato, brought back with him from the war. I learned it is called an ocarina. He even learned to play the saw, using a violin bow.  A carpenter by trade, he had plenty of “instruments” to choose from, and make music he did.

A special memory is singing in the church choir as a child. It wasn’t a formal or trained choir, but a group of people who went to the platform at the beginning of service to sing with the congregation. We were all ages, and  my friends and I sang with enthusiasm. We were there to praise the Lord with music. I still love the old songs. I can hear one of them, and I am back there again, a little girl with a melody in my heart.

Naturally I was drawn to the book Sing!, How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, written by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The Getty’s songs are already favorites; titles like In Christ Alone , Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer 2, and The Power of the Cross 3  are well known and beloved. Their gift with lyric and melody has given the church hymns once again.

Sing book

The book examines and encourages singing together whether as a family or as a church congregation.

Sing! encourages singing in our everyday lives, throughout the day, with the family at home or on road trips, as a church body. We witness to the world through our singing, and when we sing together, the message is powerful.

Chapter titles include:

  • Created to . . . Sing!
  • Commanded to  . . . Sing!
  • Compelled to . . . Sing!

Then we are to sing “with Heart and Mind,” “with Your Family,” and “with the Local Church.”

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“We are all singers. We may not all be very good singers, but we are all created to be singers nonetheless.”

“Your ability to sing is fearfully and wonderfully made. Around the twelve-week mark the vocal cords of a baby growing in the womb are in place and have been shown to work long before the baby is born.” 

“We are designed to benefit from beauty in creativity. . . . God made us to be powerfully engaged in our senses and memories by music. Songs have the power to prompt a memory or transport us back to some time and place.”

” . . . as we create, we communicate–just as God does through His creation . . . Echoing through our congregational singing is the commun.ication the divine Author has written into this world. Melodies matter. Words matter. Our songs always say something.”

“To praise him [God] is the original desire sewn into every fiber of our God-designed humanity and into every aspect of our God-designed world. When we sing God’s praise, we join with the tune of the cosmos. Just pause. Isn’t this incredible?”

Sing! can be used as a small group study; with worship leaders, choirs and musicians; with the entire church congregation; or individually.

It is essential that we understand how vital and necessary singing is to our lives.  We learn through music. Music affects us emotionally. Songs impact the way we live and the society in general.

It’s not about style of music that we choose in our churches, but it is about quality songs and a message that reflects who God truly is. The truth written in the lyrics, and sung so the world can hear, must declare that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.

Co-authored by Stuart Townend
Co-authored by Margaret Becker
Co-authored by Stuart Townend

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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A worship place

Day 15 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Is your heart and your home a place of worship?  Look around.  What are your motives?

Examine your activities.  Evaluate your time.

Last year about this time in the 40-day journey, the daily suggestion was to set up a worship center in the home.  Gather things, or make them, that symbolized the season of spring and the coming of Christ’s passion on the cross.  This was my table in the hallway in 2014.

This year I am thinking a bit differently.  Having just completed a seven-week Bible study at our house, I have come to see this place we call home in a new light.

I didn’t always do hospitality well.  In the early days of marriage, I thought everything had to be perfect.  Decorating flair.  Spotless house.  Gourmet food.  I would work at least two days ahead of the scheduled arrival of guests to put the spit-shine on everything.  I’d even ask my mother to come help me.  I wore myself out with my preparations.  Were my motives to impress?  I’m not sure.  I only know the process exhausted me and I can’t really say I enjoyed my guests.

Through the years I’ve been taught a few things. I’ve learned that people don’t really care if there are dust bunnies under the furniture or tracks on the floor or a spotless kitchen counter.  What makes them want to come is a welcoming heart.

We’ve invited people in when I was in the middle of cleaning day, vacuum cleaner out and the house in disarray.  People have come when the laundry baskets were overflowing in the hallway waiting for the next spin cycle to finish.  We had company when the back bedroom had underlayment showing for over a year after the old carpeting was pulled up.  Circumstances beyond our control kept us from finishing that project.  I’ve offered store-bought muffins or a frozen entree or sub sandwiches from the local shop.  And coffee.  Always coffee (or tea or hot cocoa).

We’ve sat at the kitchen table or on the deck, and we had fellowship no matter the chaos that was close by.

The prayer I prayed so many years ago –  “Lord, let there be peace in this house.” – has been answered.  Friends have even said it.  “It feels so peaceful here.”

Sweet William and I shake our heads in wonder when they say such things, because we know it is grace and grace alone that has accomplished it.

Having a houseful of beautiful chattering women the past seven weeks to study God’s Word together has once again imprinted the truth of hospitality on me.  If I open the doors of my heart and my home, people will come in.  And we will find that God is with us.  It is the crux of His name, Emmanuel.  He issued the invitation long ago and longs to be central to what we are doing.

Jesus came to show us who God is.  The Father who loves us unconditionally.  The life laid down willingly, taking upon Himself my shame and disgrace.  This is the heart of hospitality, the “Come unto Me”.

I still like things to be neat and orderly. It brings me rest.  My decorating scheme would probably fall under the Shabby Chic heading with much of our furnishings old and worn, kind of like us.  I try to cook fresh healthy food though I’m not above a store-bought meal occasionally.

But the principle I have found true is this:  God has given bountifully to me, and I am blessed abundantly when I share what I have with others.

It is what our Bible study emphasized over and over.  This is what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us;  and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

So preparing a worship center in our homes this season will be a tangible reminder of the season.  Making our homes a place of worship, an open door and a welcoming spirit, will give grace to hungry souls, people who need the warmth of God’s presence.  He will love them through us.

This can be the best “Welcome Home” ever.

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Friends, I have missed a couple of days of posting along the 40 days journey and thus skipped two numbers.  

Don’t be confused.  We are still traveling together.

Your thoughts are always a treasure to read.  Feel free to express yourself.

Or simply press the “Like” button.

Today . . . Sunday grace

No matter the horrors of this morning’s news,

No matter the prognosticators or weather forecasters or naysayers,

No matter the bad moods or Debbie Downers,

No matter how desperately I may be looking for the light at the end of the tunnel,

Of this I will remind myself and will bring this to my thoughts:

God is good.

I am desperately loved.

I was bought with a high price.

Jesus covered my sins with His blood.

I am part of the family of God.

I have a hope and a future.

hands lifted

So I will lift my eyes, lift my hands, lift my heart to worship

the One true God who is worthy of my praise.

No matter what.

Sunday Grace, friends.

Credit:  Google images

Sunday grace

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Looking through the window of this first Sunday of a brand new year,

May you find your way to the place of worship and fellowship with believers.

May you sing with all of your heart.

May you open God’s Word and really listen to what He is saying,

May you walk in complete assurance of His love for you.

May the Light shine brightly in you even if clouds cover the sky.

May you forgive past offenses and not carry them any longer.

May you love like Jesus loved, with abandon, completely surrendered.

And then, let us do it again tomorrow.

Sunday grace, friends.

Oh joy!

I will choose joy today.

I will look for the beauty around me.

I will pay no attention to what seems like an offense but will instead give the benefit of the doubt.

I will enter into worship with my whole heart and not wait for those around me to join in.

I will love Sweet William with my actions and my words and serve him with kindness.

I will welcome people into my arms and my heart and be filled with community.

I will gather with fellow believers and listen with my heart to the Word that convicts, reproves, and encourages.

I will bless the name of the Lord who is my Refuge, my Strong Tower, and my Savior.

Today, I will be joyful.

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True worship

Day 9 of 40 Days to Passover and Resurrection Weekend

Set up a worship center in your home using symbols of the season and our faith, i.e. cross (make one from twigs if you don’t have one), large nail, Bible, small lamb, chalice, candle, bird’s nest, spring blooms.

Contrary to popular opinion a worship center is not the sanctuary of the church where you spend a couple of hours on Sunday mornings even though that’s what came up when I googled it.

The worship center of each of us is the soul of each of us.

What is treasured in my heart, that mysterious part we call the soul, is what or who I worship.  Perhaps an indicator of my treasure is how I spend my time, what I pay attention to, where I put my money.  That is a thought to ponder seriously.

Setting up a worship center in your home may or may not reflect what’s in your heart.  It’s like wearing a cross necklace.  It does not necessarily mean I have faith.

Just something to consider as we continue on our 40-day journey.  That being said, let me continue.

I like decorating my fireplace mantle for the seasons.  The beginning of March I wanted touches of spring.  Pussy willow branches in an old galvanized watering can, greenery and a framed print of blue birds building a nest.  I look at it and know spring is coming despite the cold blustery weather that remains.

I decided to set up my worship center for this season, the coming of Passover and holy week, on an old table at the front door.  It’s where I pass often.  It’s the place guests enter.  It’s a visual reminder for my piano students on Thursday evenings .

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It will not show you what is in my heart.  Only God sees there.  But I do want it to remind me.  I hope it will focus me.  I pray it will cause me to stop and think about the season and what it means to have a God who loves me so much He was not willing to live without me.

Won’t you join us on this journey?  There’s no time like today..

If you would like to download a copy of the “40 Days to Passover and Resurrection Weekend, please do so.  And let us know you are journeying with us.

40 days to Passover download

Suffering for Christ

“If I call will you come? When I cry do you hear?”

The questions from a song written by Zach Neese called Faithful God echo my own heart.

I’ve asked those questions in the midst of difficult and uncertain events.  I’ve wondered where God was while I suffered or watched people I care about suffer, even die.

Maybe you have, too.

Why is it we think God is in our midst when all is right with our world but we assume He is far, far away and out of hearing when the world is crashing down around us?

More and more I realize I don’t know all the answers. I’m not a theologian, only a forever-student of the Word.  I’m still learning.

I used to think I could “command” God to do what I wanted, the results of an idea that we can name what we want and claim it in Jesus’ name.  That should make it a done deal, right?

Another line of thought says if I can just think enough positive thoughts and eliminate all the negative ones, I will draw only good things to me.  That would be pretty powerful, wouldn’t it?

There is nothing new about those ideas.  It was put into a poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley in 1800s.

“I am master of my fate; I am captain of my soul.”

 I have already decided.  I don’t want to be in charge of myself and my destiny.  Captain of my own soul?  I answer that question with a resounding “No!”

I don’t have sufficient intelligence or wisdom; I am too selfish, too self-focused, too emotional, too small in my thinking to design my own life, to decide what is best for me and expect a good outcome.

I have surrended the command of my life to the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Jesus Christ.  But when suffering is all around me, family, friends, the world, I still have questions.

Reading chapter 1 of Philippians recently, I see words that I’ve read many times before, but they spoke in a different way this time.

Verse 29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

I’ve always considered the suffering Paul talked about to be persecution for the Gospel of Christ, the kind of suffering preachers and missionaries deal with, the ones who give their all, live in foreign countries, and risk their very lives to spread the good news of Jesus.

I’ve never suffered like that.

But what if Paul’s words were expanded to include Christians who deal with mental, physical, emotional pain while still reflecting the light of God’s glory as they endure?

A friend tells me about a young woman with a husband and two small children who is dying of cancer.  Treatments are no longer effective.  She will not be a survivor.  She has little energy anymore while friends bring food and take the children out for a picnic or ice cream.  Yet, she musters the strength on a Sunday morning to dress in something pretty, wearing her face mask to prevent an infection, and she comes to church to worship.

I hear of a mother of six boys who was told the sweet baby girl she and her husband had waited for is diseased in the womb and will not survive long after birth. This mother courageously carried the child full term despite medical advice to abort. She gave birth and held her little girl until breath was gone. Her friends, her church, and her community are impacted by her faith.

I listen to heart-breaking prayer requests from the lips of my choir when we practice on Wednesday evenings.  Then I watch them lift their hands and hearts in worship to their God who leaves many questions unanswered.  Their joy shines though the burdens are heavy.

Another friend shares through tears the heartbreak of watching a family member’s life deteriorate before her eyes. Yet she continues to serve and fulfill her obligations, faithful to the calling of God.

A childhood friend who has many gifts and talents was struck with a debilitating disease years ago that allows only a few good days out of many painful one when staying home and resting is all she can do.  She recently shared her great joy at being able to serve her church in a way she can, organizing a greeter ministry.  It’s something she can do within the limitations of her illness.

Another childhood friend lost her husband this year to a lingering illness.  We have reconnected on Facebook. I recently asked her how she was doing. Her response was from a wounded heart that was fully and faithfully trusting her God.

I see the glory of God shining in those lives.  Though He slay them, yet they will trust Him!

That kind of faith speaks louder than a Sunday morning sermon in the church house.  It shouts loudly to neighbors, co-workers, people on highways and byways of life who will not hear the gospel except as it is lived out by persevering Christians.

So maybe Paul’s words ring true for you like they do for me today. When life spirals out of control and I feel myself falling with it, I remember that God told me in His Word that there would be days like this.  He has not left me in my suffering.  He is ever near the broken, the wounded, the hurting.  He has a purpose for it though I cannot see.  And perhaps . . . just perhaps His light will be reflected in me as I hopefully endure. 

The song I began with continues like this:

“If I call will You come? When I cry do You hear?  I believe every tear is caught up by a faithful God.

  So I will cry until You come, cast my cares into Your arms.  I can’t see past this storm, but I’m counting on a faithful God.”

Until the storm passes by, I’m counting on a God Who has been faithful to me in my past, is faithful right now in my present, and will be faithful until my life on this earth ends, and I stand in the presence of my God.

A promise from 2 Corinthians 4 rings in my ear:

  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory . . .

Being there with Jesus will be worth it all.