A New Stanza

I have been using “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan to direct my scripture reading over the past few weeks and have been blessed to find new hymns and rediscover old favorites. If you aren’t familiar with the book, it is a compilation of the stories and scriptures behind 150 popular hymns. The book was given to me by a dear friend decades ago. Dorothy sang beautifully and helped me find my voice, so I’ve kept the book to remind me of her.

This morning, God took me to two very familiar hymns; at least I thought they were familiar until I looked a little deeper. I was shocked to learn that I only truly knew the first stanza of “Jesus Loves Me.” I know I sang all the verses over and over as a child, but I could only fully recall the first. I memorized the second stanza this morning and  plan to take one a day until I have them all firmly in my heart.

I was even more surprised to read the history of “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” better know as the Doxology.

According to Morgan, the hymn has thirteen stanzas; but I was only able to find these eleven:

 Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

I love the Doxology and “Jesus Loves Me,” but I also love contemporary praise songs. I love that Thomas Ken, who wrote the hymn in 1674, was pushing beyond the accepted boundaries of praise music when he wrote what is considered by some as the first English hymn. Only Psalms were sung in public worship at the time; so he instructed the boys at Winchester College, where he served as chaplain, to sing the hymn privately in their rooms. The stanzas he penned were designed to be encouraging devotions for them; they certainly were for me this morning. Over three hundred years after these stanzas were written, they were brand new to me this morning.

The message God had for me this morning was not to think you know a familiar song, person, or place. A closer look may reveal a hidden treasure. Sometimes, you just need to hear a new stanza.

Why the Truth Sets Us Free

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) is a verse I quote when I want the truth of others to set me free. I believe this verse is more about coming to terms with the truth in my own life.

Truth is easily distorted, and some argue that we have our own version of the truth. Twisting the truth gets me off the hook temporarily, but getting off the hook never sets me free. More often than not, I am dropped into a dark hole that’s worse than the hook.

The first step on the journey of finding the truth is admitting I’m wrong. Only I can take that step, so the first step is a lonely one.  It is a narrow gate to pass through, but it opens up quickly.

Christ waits patiently on the other side of that gate. The journey becomes more bearable, but far from easy. After admitting I’ve said, thought or done something wrong, I have to turn and go in a new direction.

Reparation comes next. God knows that a simple sorry is never enough when it comes to sin. We all know the effect fast, forced apologies have upon us. They’re worse than the original offense.

Truth is about sincerity, and that must come from a deep place in my heart. I was particularly sickened by the news last week as I watched the truth being battered around like a pathetic ping pong ball in a grotesque game of politics.

I can’t know someone else’s truth, but I know that when I am honest with myself, others, and God, I experience a freedom unlike any other. The truth sets me free because it helps me see that I am not perfect. That puts me in the perfect position to call upon One who is. Admitting I am wrong is the most difficult thing in the world, but nothing is sweeter than the peace and freedom that truth brings.

 

 

 

September Sunsets

There is nothing more spectacular than a sunset in September. Colors become more brilliant as the air begins to cool. Every season has its own beauty, but fall is a time when I see God most clearly. I know many hate to see the summer fade, but my heart dances with joy when sweet September makes her glorious entrance 💕

Embracing Joy 🦋

Joy has been the subject of God’s lessons all week, so I wasn’t surprised that the service at The River of Life this morning was about just that.

I’ve been reading “Daring Greatly” this week and was taken aback by the notion of foreboding joy being a common shield against vulnerability.

Brene Brown describes her findings in Chapter 4.

“…having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. This shift from our younger self’s greeting of joy with unalloyed delight happens slowly and outside of our awareness.”

I completely connected to the notion of foreboding joy as she described her own experiences and the experiences of the people she interviewed. When something wonderful happens or all is going very well, I begin to think something bad is getting ready to happen. It’s a ridiculous notion, but I was clearly guilty of putting up the foreboding joy shield to protect myself from vulnerability.

The good news is that hearing her describe her struggles helped me see my struggles in a new light. She goes on to give hope to those of us who are guilty of worrying that the other shoe is about to drop.

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”

She goes on to say that our culture assists in the doom and gloom scenarios we rehearse. Awareness is the first step to change, so I was overjoyed this morning as I sat by the river and had a sweet talk with God about my foreboding joy shield.

He has always known about it, and He and I both know it’s forged in fear. We both know that fear doesn’t feed on the vulnerable; it feeds on those who think they need a shield. It was freeing to let the river sweep away my shield this morning as I thanked God for lessons learned.

Brene Brown says, “While I was initially taken aback by the relationship between joy and vulnerability, it now makes perfect sense to me, and I can see why gratitude would be the antidote to foreboding joy.” 

So do I! I plan to practice gratitude and embrace all the joy that comes into my life 🦋

Joy on the River 8-26-18

Precious Moments

On a cool evening back in March 2015, I captured three beautiful images of the same sunset. I love the views from my new apartment in town, but I miss the sunsets from the home I shared with my son and his family. Every evening was a breathtaking performance, and every day was a sweet adventure with my little granddaughters. I’m only two miles away now and see the girls often, but I treasure the moments we shared on the mountaintop.

 

 

Cloudy Lessons

Clouds have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a daydreamer, I often look up at the sky and imagine all sorts of creatures and objects forming in them. I especially love to watch sunsets. I’m not sure what images you will see in the view from my little porch, but I’m sure they will not be the same as the ones I see. I love that about clouds, and I love that about people.

We see ourselves and others in various ways depending upon the circumstances in our lives and in theirs. Like clouds, people can be stormy, calm, or playful. Love allows us to see others in all phases of their lives and love them all the more 💜

I see faces, angels, hearts, clouds, eagles, and even a little wolf in the images below. They are all the same view from my porch in the evening, but all are very different. I hope you will take a moment out of your busy day and let clouds carry your imagination away. It really is good for the soul 🦋

I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)