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)

 

Rejoice!!

When I hear the word rejoice, I immediately think of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It is a favorite and familiar song that lifts my heart every time I hear it.

This song makes me want to sing and defines worship for me. Worship begins with love. Love leads to faith, and faith is the stage upon which I rejoice. Singing is a natural response when it comes to worship, but I learned from a terrible music teacher in fourth grade that I could not sing. Up until that moment, I sang with abandon. After his ugly comment, I mouthed the words in public and stopped singing when alone.

During Holy Week in 2009, a dear friend helped me see myself as a singer and gave me the courage to sing in front of a small group. I never felt more alive in my life than when I was singing “What Wondrous Love is This” and “Where You There.” Mama died a few months later, and life took an unexpected turn. I sang in worship and when alone, but I didn’t pursue singing the way God wanted me to. I had the desire to sing, but I lacked the courage. Hateful words have deep roots.

Singing, loving, rejoicing, dancing, and worshipping are best done with abandon. All of them should be done whether anyone is watching or not, and all should come from a deep place in the heart. Last night, God reminded me how much He loves to hear me sing. Like the parent of a little child, nothing delights Him more than hearing His little ones sing with abandon. He also showed me that the only time singing, loving, rejoicing, dancing, and worshipping are inappropriate is when they are about me and not Him.

I could relate because nothing is more off key than singing done to shine a light on the singer. I’ve heard singers who performed perfectly but left my heart feeling flat. I’ve also heard performances that were not perfect that caused my heart to soar toward heaven. The point of all worship is to glorify God. When we do that together, it is magical.

I love the time I spend alone with God. Sometimes I sit quietly and listen. Sometimes I talk to Him. Sometimes I sing, and sometimes I dance! A solo is beautiful, but it is a taste of heaven when voices join in sweet harmony. That harmony doesn’t depend upon everyone singing in the right key; it happens when hearts are tuned in one accord.

Lillyann spent the night last night and warned me when we went to bed that she did not like getting up in the morning. According to her, it would be a problem. I told her I could handle it 🙂 I heard her singing in the bathroom while I was writing this post. Again, God’s timing always amazes and usually amuses me!

I went in, and she was washing her hands and singing sweetly. She stopped singing and looked up at me sheepishly. I told her to keep on singing and told her she was up fifteen minutes early and singing! She grinned, and I told her to blame it on the cinnamon buns. She laughed and asked if they were ready.

As we were driving to school this morning, I told her how much I loved to hear her sing. I also told her that nobody love to hear us sing more than God. While we waited in the line of cars, I told her about my fourth grade music teacher’s remarks and the effect they had upon me. She said, “That’s horrible!!” I told her I loved to sing now because someone else encouraged me to sing. She said, “That’s good.” I heartily agreed 🙂

She was singing again while putting on her shoes before we left; I decided to capture that sweet moment because she didn’t stop when I walked over.

 

 

 

Make Room

Making room for God requires letting go of self. That doesn’t mean I can’t be me; it simply means I can’t keep all of my stuff. When I moved into my tiny apartment in town, I had to downsize considerably. The home I shared with my son and his family for two and a half years was over 5,000 square feet. My new place is 550 square feet. My bedroom and bath were larger than my apartment, so I had some serious downsizing to do.

Taking stock of my belongings wasn’t easy, do I did it while the kids were away on vacation. I made three piles: treasures to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. Two of the piles were easy, but the one in the middle brought me to tears. I love books and had hundreds of them, but I knew they would never fit into my apartment. The same was true for all I had accumulated over the years. After agonizing over each possession, the largest pile held treasures I wanted to keep. I decided to deal with the other two first because they were easier on my heart.

The pile to sell was easy. I felt great after taking several car loads to a nearby consignment shop because I was going to get paid for letting go. I was energized and ready to tackle the give away pile. It was fun to think about who would love and appreciate the stuff I no longer needed. I started with materials and books from my classroom. I had given away a ton of materials when I retired. I left most everything behind in my classroom when I retired, but I did take special books and units with me just in case I decided to teach again.

I knew several wonderful young teachers, one a former student I knew would put my things to good use. She was elated, and that encouraged me to press on. It was time to deal with that troubling treasure chest at home. I made a new pile of things for my son. That was fun and made a big dent in the pile, but there was still the treasures to keep pile!

I decided to take a break and do some praying. God knew this was a hard process, and He knew that was more about letting go than sorting out. Not having room is convenient when it comes to homes and hearts. There is a certain safety in not having space because it keeps me from inviting in the new or stepping into the unknown. If I don’t have time or space, I don’t have to worry about growing. We all know that growing pains are very real and apply to more than teenage joints and muscles.

With God’s help, I was able to let go and grow into my tiny apartment with room to spare. I absolutely love my new home because it is filled, but not full. Simplifying was satisfying and opened the door for a similar transformation in my heart. My apartment and my heart are loving the openness. God is loving it too because His Holy Spirit has enough space to dance. That makes both of us very happy. My grand daughters are happy because they also have space to dance and play. Making room in a house or a heart isn’t an easy process; but once you create a little open space, you want more of it and will never be satisfied with crowded again.

You Better Let Somebody Not Love You…

I’ve struggled, in the past, with letting others love me. I’m not sure if that was because I felt unworthy or perhaps, I was simply afraid. Letting somebody love me isn’t easy; the Eagles make that clear in “Desperado.” The song cautions those afraid of love to “let somebody love you before it’s too late.”

I’ve loved the song for decades and could relate to its lyrics, but the lessons in love of late have been very different ones. God is helping me see that I must let somebody not love me if I want to love as He loves. God loves everyone, no matter who they are. That bothers some, but brings great peace to me. He loves completely and perfectly, but He never forces anyone to love Him back. He could, but He knows better than anyone that love isn’t love if it’s forced upon us.

I’ve always had the need to be liked, so it’s not surprising I would have difficulty letting someone not love me. I find myself trying to convince others to accept my love and to love me back. It hurts deeply when they don’t. I am learning I can only be a loving presence and choose whether to accept the love offered to me. Life and love are wrapped together beautifully in relationship, and I’m slowly learning to relax into relationships and not worry if they are not what I expect them to be.

Chasing love is pointless because it can never be caught. Pursuing it only distracts, disturbs, and deters the love already in my life. The notion of relaxing into obedience has brought powerful growth during the past year. I’m finding that relaxing into whatever God has in mind brings a sweet sense of peace. Relaxing is not easy for me; but when I remember it’s simply believing God is Who He says He is, it becomes much easier.

I’ve been getting deep tissue massages since April to correct some health issues I’ve had for years. I was groaning yesterday when I felt my tendons and muscles begin to relax. The difference in my body over the past few months is unbelievable, and I know it has to do with the fact that I’m learning to relax just like those stubborn, twisted muscles. I told Braden, as she massaged out the sore spots, that learning to let others not love me was having the same effect on my heart that her massage techniques were having on my body. Does it hurt when someone doesn’t love me? Absolutely!! Can I make them love me? Absolutely not! Does allowing them the space to not love me bring them closer? Sometimes 🙂

If love is meant to be, it will be. If it is not meant to be, it will not be. I can cajole or coerce with some success, but I will miss the kind of love God has in mind for my heart. Wasting time and effort trying to get someone to love me keeps me from enjoying the sweet love already in my path.

So, let somebody not love you before it’s too late.