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I Wanted To Be With You

 

crossI wanted to be with You

as You fell down to pray

but there were so many things

that kept me very far away.

Things like pride and anger,

things like plain old fear.

But I am so glad to know

that You were praying for me there.

I wanted to be with You

when your friend, he did betray,

 But I saw the soldier standing there,

jesus-christ-crown-thorns-827201-wallpaper I just couldn’t be brave that day.

I was held back by pride and anger

and just plain old fear.

But when you faced Judas’ kiss

I saw compassion shine so clear.

(how did I miss this?)

I wanted to be with You

to defend You at that trial,

making waves and speaking out

but you know that’s not my style.

I cowered in pride and anger

and just plain old fear

I was no help to You

Had my own burden to bear.

I wanted to be with Youcross - Copy

as they led You up that road.

that cross that You carried

should have been my heavy load.

But I couldn’t bear the suffering

and tortured agony

yet, You walked the walk I couldn’t walk,

each step you took for me.

I wanted to be with You

but I’m not good enough, I guess.

Still You carried on alone

even when I had to rest.

You took all my failures

that had stopped me in my tracks

as you walked up to Golgotha, my weight across your back.

videoblocks-jesus-on-the-cross-under-a-storm-and-a-roman-soldier-on-a-horse_hjjqdeiwb_thumbnail-full02You took all these things that held me down,

my pride and anger and fear

You took them with You on that cross

and I’m so sorry that You were there,

so sorry that I couldn’t share,

so sorry.

And yet, somehow glad that You were there

so glad that You truly care

for me.

I wanted to be with You

yet all the time

 You’ve been here with me.

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Grace Comes First

grace and rocks

Ever since I was a child, each Easter I have watched the classic movie “The Ten Commandments” by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston. My parents loved this the ten commandments 1956-largemovie and the tradition has carried down to the next generation. It’s one of those epic stories of an underdog who rises to be a hero and a God who saves His suffering people. It’s only as an adult and reading the story in its original form in the biblical book of Exodus that I am starting to pick up on all the nuances of this incredible event that will form the bedrock of Hebrew society and later Christianity.

I am learning that the real theme in Exodus is the grace that came before the rescue.

Grace is a word that has fallen out of favor today. We talk about loving one another. We talk about justice for those who are hurting. But we don’t talk about grace. We don’t mention that sacrificial thing that will cost us much more than we will ever receive in return. Yet, grace is the very center of God’s heart.in God's heartGod’s original covenant with Abram was that He would make a great nation out of Abrams’ family. God promised land and blessings to this nation/family that would, in turn, bless the world. And then God set about creating relationship between Himself and the people of Israel. All He asked in return was their obedience.

I guess, this is why I always saw the Ten Commandments as a moral list of do’s and don’t that would serve a guidance for Israel and all the world. Don’t murder, don’t steal – no one can argue with that.

 

 

While this is true, the commandments are also one of those places in the Bible that highlight the fact that grace has always come first.

Grace was extended in the Garden of Eden and all the way up to the time of the Exodus. Obedience was spotty but God’s grace was consistent. Just before the Commandments were given on Mount Sinai, we read in Exodus 15-18 of a three- month span between the parting of the Red Sea and Israel’s arrival at the foot of Mount Sinai. In those three months, the people find themselves without food or water and being attacked by a vicious enemy. Each time the people threaten to return to Egypt. Each time, Moses cries out to God who responds to the people’s disobedience with grace. Water flows from rock, manna appears with the morning dew and protection from enemies is granted. All this is done despite the people’s behavior. Thus, the pattern is set and will continue through the Bible and into our world today.

 

 

grace 1

Our obedience – not so much

God’s grace – always present

In my own life, I have seen this pattern played out. I have turned my back on God, yet He has always responded with grace. Even though I must deal with the consequences of my choices, God graciously carries me through.

Christian singer-songwriter Mitch McVicker likes to tell his audiences that whenever he is asked to sing at a church, they will ask him to explain his statement of faith to them first. His answer is to say that he does not have a statement of faith. In fact, his faith is nothing to write home about. What he has is a statement of grace. It’s all about God extending grace to him and allowing him to continue his ministry and continue to serve in the ways that God has provided.

Can you relate? If the strength of my faith or the consistency of my obedience is my ticket into Heaven – I’m in big trouble. I think we all are in trouble. But God is willing to lift me above my disobedience and that is the core of grace.

Grace thru Jesus

Despite my nonsense, despite my foolish choices, despite my weakness –

God’s grace comes first.

Romans 5.8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8


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Learning to listen

question mark

I have a question for you. Why do you read the Bible?

The most common answer I get is, “I want to have a better understanding of God and His will for my life.” In fact, that used to be my answer. As I have aged, (gracefully, I hope!) I have found my answers and point of view being shaken and turned around in unexpected ways. One thing that I have found is that I no longer read to understand. I now read to listen for the voice that my heart longs to hear. I hadn’t expected it to become this personal. I hadn’t expected it to be this intimate. But this is the evolving relationship that is growing with my Father. Without as many distractions as a working/volunteering young mom has, I am able to listen a bit closer.

“True”, you might say. But as we grow out of a hundred worries, don’t we just find a hundred more? “Yes”, I would answer. But those worries come with a lot less drama and I found that I have a bit more patience. Just as human relationships go through cycles and changes, so must our relationship with God. These days, I find myself enjoying a “Mary of Bethany” moment of just wanting to sit at His feet, of choosing what is better so it cannot be taken away from me (Luke 10:42).

I was thinking about when my children were infants and toddlers. Child-like love and faith is an amazing thing to see and experience. My babies could be crying in another’s mother and childarms but as soon as they were returned to me – they would settle into my shoulder, a few quick breaths and then calm down. They would look into my eyes with complete confidence that I would not let them slip in the bath or drop them as we ran through the rain in a parking lot. They did not need to understand the complexity of my adult mind, they needed only to hear my voice saying, “It’s alright, don’t cry, I love you”.

But as they grew, a curious thing happened. They began to explore their own strength mother-daughter-fight-annoyed-1135x540and start to pull away. They’d question mom and dad. By the time they are teenagers, they’d question constantly and that can get ugly, but it was a healthy ugly. They were growing up and wanting to understand who they were becoming. As difficult as it was, it was all strangely good. As I look back on my own life, I can see what my parents did right and what they got wrong in a much more objective way.

But our relationship with God, although parental in nature, is different. He doesn’t make mistakes. Everything that is in your life, whether good or bad, He allowed purposefully. And I don’t think that He is so much concerned about what we’ve done, are doing or will do than He is about where are hearts are. Jesus, though He loved Martha, was more pleased with Mary’s listening posture in Luke 10:41-42.

Luke 10.41-42

I am now at a point in my life where certain Bible verses are starting to make sense to me as they never did before.

Psalm 46.10

This well- known verse becomes more of a life-style rather than a reminder to slow down and have “quiet time with God”.

In Psalm 40, David asks for help against his enemies, (and let’s face it, this guy had some bloodthirsty enemies) yet he begins this psalm with patience as he listens for God to speak.

Remember Moses telling the Israelites in Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still”? That same thought is repeated in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 when Solomon has finished the temple and brings the ark into it. The priests make music and sing in an elaborate ceremony but then “the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the temple.” God Himself, is performing the ceremony! They need only watch.

Do you see a pattern here? Our God is a God of action! We are to listen and follow His instruction and not worry about whether we are doing it right or doing enough. I used to worry what would happen if I got His instructions wrong. What if I misunderstood God? Turns out that I usually misunderstand God but because my heart is turning more and more to Him, I am able to feel when He is pushing me forward into action or turning me back from a wrong action.

It’s very freeing to realize that when I follow God’s guidance, I will be a much more productive Christian. And when I screw up – daily occurrence for me – He will gently push me back to a starting point and whisper, “one more time, but My way, not your way.”

I am learning, in the example of Mary, to choose the better thing.

In the example of the Psalmist, to choose to be still.

In the example of the priests, to step back and rather than perform, watch God do what He will do.

And more and more I immerse myself in His Word, the Bible…

…and listen.

reading the bible


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A Christmas memory

I have a great memory of singing Christmas carols with my mom many Christmas Eves ago. No one else would sing with her so I jumped in and we belted out a few. Then she tucked me in bed to await Santa’s arrival. Funny the things you remember. Well, I may not be able to carry a tune but I can still have fun with those Christmas songs that I love.

christmas music

 

 

It was a Silent Night, a Holy Night

in that Little Town of Bethlehem

When Angels From the Realms of Glory

those Angels We Have Heard on High

“Hark!”, the shepherds look on high, “The Herald Angels Sing”

 

What Came Upon a Midnight Clearchristmas music2

as Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

a message of Emmanuel

who brings great Joy to the World

 

That First Noel, O Holy Night

When Unto Us a Child is Born

One Small Child, tucked Away in a Manger

joy to the worldAnd all the world, from shepherds to kings, rejoice!

O Come, Let Us Adore Him

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

who brings such Joy To all The World

 

 

 

We Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

The Carol of the Bells was played

so we Go, Tell it on the Mountains

“God sent us salvation, that blessed Christmas morn”

And brings us Joy, Joy to the World

star

Merry Christmas!


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Mismatched Love

 

mismatch 2Every year I dream about decorating my tree in some magnificent monochromatic theme straight out of a Martha Stewart magazine. I have packs of red ornaments and some that are just gold and white. I could create a gorgeous tree that would be the envy of home decorators everywhere. But then I open my box of mismatched ornaments and sort through them. Some were handmade by friends, some from my kids and my husbands, some bought while on vacation. Each one brings back fond memories. I think of just how special those friends and loving family are and end up filling the tree branches with mismatched love.

By the end of December, we are careening into Christmas week. Time to slow down for a minute and light the fourth advent candle for Love. It is meant to symbolize both the love of God and the adoration we owe Him. Talk about mismatched love! He loves so completely that He sent His only Son to make a way for us to be with Him. We, on the other hand, have to be the most disappointing part of His glorious creation. For every touching story of human kindness, I can find five examples of people who have sold each other out, turn each other away, and otherwise ignore each other’s pain. What a sad commentary on what God created for His glory.

Yet, God never gives up on us. He continues to love us relentlessly. He even explains in the very first book of the Bible that He has a plan in which His love trumps our brutality.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good

to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20

While we are held back by the boundaries of this world, Love has no such restraints. Love can soar above anger, pain and fear. Acting in love can bring us a little closer to matching up with Godly love. We can never reach the lofty heights of God’s immeasurable love, but we can catch a little glimpse of it when we love each other. This Christmas, let’s try to love deeper, love more fully, love without expecting any return. Let’s try to get a little closer to matching His perfect Love. It’s not too late.

Merry Christmas!

mismatch8


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Advent Joy

joy 2

Joy.

It’s so much more than just being happy. It’s a feeling that starts deep down in your heart. It rises above common sense and is the secret behind smiles even when circumstances seem to be more suited to tears. Ill winds may blow on the outside but joy lives in the depths of a God-centered soul and storms will not affect it. True joy springs from a loving God. It is bigger than the scope of your vision and the width of your wildest dreams. Therefore, the limits of this world cannot affect joy. It is a Godly thing that depends only on faith.

Young Mary sets off to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both women are dealing with frightening circumstances. Elizabeth had long ago given up on a dream of motherhood. Now she finds herself in an unexpected high- risk pregnancy. Mary is betrothed to Joseph. According to Hebrew customs, she must remain in her father’s house for one year preparing herself for marriage while Joseph builds their house. They consider themselves married once the betrothal begins in all ways except intimacy, so an unexpected pregnancy is a disaster for both families involved. Joy is not a word that I would expect to use to describe either of them. but that is only because I am thinking in earthly terms, not in Godly terms.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women Mary and Elizabethand blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”       

Luke 1: 41-45

When Mary first greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, immediately recognizes who is standing in her doorway. She refers to Mary as the mother of my Lord.  She knows the baby that Mary is carrying, is Messiah. Elizabeth’s words to Mary are filled with wonder and joyful excitement.

In this, we catch a glimpse of Advent Joy. An anticipatory joy at the thought of the gift God is holding out to us. As Elizabeth comes to understand who this baby is, she responds to Him in joy and wonder.

When was the last time you read the familiar Christmas story in the first and second chapters in Luke? Can you feel Elizabeth’s excitement as she greets her young cousin.  In her response, we see a measure of how we can respond to Him.

During Advent, we light candles for Hope, Peace and this week, Joy.  When I read Mary’s words in the passage, I sense her hope and peace despite the situation. In Elizabeth’s words, there is joyfulness. They had been given understanding through the Holy Spirit that they are about to meet Messiah, the Hope of the world, the Prince of Peace and the Joy of salvation. They respond in faith which results in hope, peace and joy.

May you be filled with His joy as you experience the beauty of this Christmas season.

christmas joy


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Advent Peace

candle-peaceThe wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

Such a beautiful verse referring to the coming Messiah, whom the prophet has already titled “Prince of Peace” in chapter 9, verse 6 of Isaiah. It’s envisions a future time when those who had been mortal enemies will live peaceably together. Peace is the focus of the second week of Advent. Whether it is the Prince of Peace the world is awaiting or the peace that is born in a believer’s heart, peace is a highly sought- after prize in our society. This week we will hear it proclaimed from pulpits and sing songs of Peace on Earth, while all the time, we will be stressing over Christmas preparations and all burdens that we each carry.

So, what is peace and how can we find it? Or maybe it is easier to ask what the opposite is? The person who is not at peace, is stressed, anxious and often freezes in uncertainty. Therefore, the person who is at peace should not be stressed, not riddled with anxiety and have a conviction about what they are doing or where they are going.

Honestly, when was the last time that you met such a person?

They are few and far between.

Most of us live with some level of daily anxiety. Medical textbooks are filled descriptions of physical ailments that are caused by anxiety. The numbers of children and teens diagnosed with anxiety disorders each year is skyrocketing.

We tend to think of the nativity story as peaceful, but the Prince of Peace was born into a violent world under brutal circumstances. Yet in the second chapter of Luke in verses 19 and 51 we see that Mary responds to all she has been through in an unusual way. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That doesn’t sound like she was too stressed. It sounds remarkably calm to me!

Twelve years later, the family is returning home after spending the Passover in Jerusalem. Each parent assumes that their oldest son is with another family member in the caravan, but Jesus has stayed behind in Jerusalem. It will be several days before they find him. Mary asked him what he is doing and again we see that she is incredibly calm. Verse 51 tells us that she “treasured these things in her heart”. If it was me, it would have taken days just for my blood pressure to return to normal after all the time spent tracking down my lost child in the big city. Yet Mary seems accepting of it. As a parent, I can’t help but think that before she got to a place where she could “treasure”, I’m willing to bet that she panicked. I know I would have. My question is what brought her from panic to peaceful pondering?

Last week’s advent candle represented Hope. Hope in Christ in a crazy world is not easy. Hope for Mary that her wayward son hadn’t gotten Himself into trouble while in Jerusalem must have been difficult as the days ticked by before they found him. But God gives us that Hebrews 6:19 soul anchor of hope that is secure and firm even in troubled times. We only panic when we lose our grip on Him. The doubts and fears that invade our hearts are the result of a loosening grip. I think that Mary, having the benefit of experiencing miracles firsthand, had a pretty strong grip and that allowed her to treasure and ponder (and maybe still hyperventilate a little bit).

Don’t get me wrong. I think the church has done much damage by accusing people of bringing on their own issues due to a lack of faith. This is not what I am saying all. However, we do see Biblical evidence that faith – trusting in God – helps us to develop hope and hope is a weapon we can use to beat back anxious thoughts. As we learn to use hope against the darkness of this world, we will gain a measure of peace. And God promises more! He tells us that we can experience His peace, a peace that is far beyond anything our finite minds can produce.

peace of Christ

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

 

What a beautiful promise of peace! While Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom alludes to a future time, this promise is here and now. Be the sheep that stays close to His shepherd and let His Peace guard you in a darkened world.shepherds-1