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.

 

 

 

It’s Fitting!!

I took care of my two granddaughters while my daughter-in-law was on a mission trip to Costa Rica. I loved having the opportunity to spend quality time with them and my son. Keeping up with two very energetic little girls wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun. I felt ten years younger after ten days and noticed my clothes were fitting differently.

There’s nothing better than clothes that fit well, and that is especially true for me because I absolutely hate wearing them!! Little Mylah is the same way, so getting her ready to go somewhere is like moderating a political debate. She won’t wear anything that doesn’t fit perfectly, and she’s a diva when it comes to the way she looks. I learned to just leave her alone, let her go through the painful process, and pick up all the clothes on the floor afterward.

God used the girls to teach many lessons last week, and one was about the importance of a proper fit. I’ve gained twelve pounds in the past two and a half years because I turned to food to fill a space that food cannot fill. The result was a closet full of uncomfortably tight clothing. I wore yoga pants and comfortable shirts while watching the girls because I had a lot to manage and didn’t want to have to worry about clothes.

When I got home and had time to breath, I stepped on the scales and couldn’t believe I had lost four pounds. I got the tape measure out to make sure my scales were not broken and was even more surprised to learn that I had lost seven inches!!

Clothing was not the only thing not fitting lately, so God used the girls to teach a fitting lesson. I’ve struggled throughout my adult life with corporate worship. Some places were too tight, and some were too loose. Nothing seemed to suit or fit my spiritual needs. Trying to find the right fit left me frustrated and ready to quit.

A perfect fit is virtually impossible to find when it comes to clothes, but I do have outfits that feel wonderful and look great. I feel great when I wear them, so I can relate to Mylah’s struggle with clothing. Only God knows the perfect fit for my heart, and He showed me how it felt this week. On Tuesday, I shared communion with dear friends and knew I was right where I needed to be. It was a feeling far better than finding that perfect outfit.

Walking in God’s kingdom is about being where He wants me to be. He knows His kingdom is the perfect fit for my heart; and  He knows that once I feel its fit, I won’t settle for anything less.

Philippians 2:1-2 is a beautiful scripture that describes the perfect fit God has in mind. I think I’ll put it on my closet door 🙂

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (NASB)

It's Fitting

Gravity & Grace

I thought of Lillyann and Mylah this week as God’s lessons led me to see the power of His Holy Spirit to lift my spirit and bring me into a sweet intimacy with Him. Earlier in the week, the girls were pretending to be birds and decided to get on the couch and  fly. Gina and I watched as they showed us how real birds fly. Lillyann, the engineer, had the proper wing formation and proceeded to fly in true bird form. Mylah threw her arms up in delight, squealed, and flew with abandon. Lillyann tried in vain to get Mylah to use proper form, but Mylah was soaring and didn’t heed her directions.

I told Lillyann that humans would fly with their arms outstretched like Mylah’s and used Superman as an example of such flight. Lillyann wasn’t buying it, so I told her that Mylah could pretend fly any way she wanted. That seemed to make sense, so on they flew. I love the abandon of children, and I envy the freedom with which they express their spirits. The lessons this week were all about Spirit, and God used the vivid image of the girls’ flight to bring home a powerful lesson in gravity.

We celebrate Pentecost this week. I’ve read and heard about Pentecost all my life, but I understood Pentecost for the first time today. I was flying like little Mylah with the help of God’s sweet Holy Spirit, and it was the best high I’ve ever experienced. I’ve felt God’s Spirit before, but today was different. It was the most beautiful AHA! moment I’ve ever had as I understood the difference between God’s ways and mine as never before. God dwells in Spirit; I tend to dwell in the body. It was clear to me today that the Spirit has the body beat when it comes to soaring, and I loved the feeling of absolute bliss I felt today. God made it clear that He knows what’s best for me. His timing is always perfect, and I was especially thankful for that today. I got His message just when I needed it, and I love that about Him.

I know I have to die to self, and I know it is a daily death, but I lived the lesson today. That is much better than simply hearing it. I’ve been thinking about Romans 8:14-17 and Acts 2:1-21 this week, and I read commentaries and articles half-heartedly as I prepared the folders last week. In fact, and I’m ashamed to say this, I dismissed Romans and moved on to Galatians because I found it more interesting. I am so very thankful God that is patient, loves me more than I can begin to fathom, and sees me just as I saw Mylah with her  little hands raised in pretend flight. I am also grateful for loving friends who nudge me along the path:)

The lessons this week have all been about allowing God to define me. I am His daughter, and He made that very clear today. The lessons began on Sunday, continued all week, and came together beautifully today. I was His daughter this afternoon, and that made me want to jump and shout and lift my arms like little Mylah. My body reacts to gravity, and that makes it very difficult to stay in flight. Gravity keeps me from experiencing what God has in mind for me, but God’s grace gives me a taste of His freedom that I can’t forget. Bing gives three definitions for gravity:

1)gravitational force: the attraction due to gravitation that the Earth or another astronomical object exerts on an object on or near its surface

2)seriousness: the seriousness of something considered in terms of its unfavorable consequence

3)serious behavior: solemnity and seriousness in somebody’s attitude or behavior

Gravity literally keeps my body from floating up in the air, and I’m very thankful for it; but I must make sure my body does not keep my spirit from being lifted by God’s grace. That pesky sin of seriousness will also keep my spirit from soaring and will ground my soul. Seriousness and gravitational force have their places, but my spirit isn’t one of them. My spirit belongs to God, and I am His beloved daughter. He showed me what He could do when given the space and freedom He needs. What a lesson! What a week! There just aren’t words that describe the way I felt when I was lifted to a place where I escaped gravity and flew into His presence today, but John Gillespie Magee Jr. comes very close his beautiful poem that I’ve always loved.

“High Flight”

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
 And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
 Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
 You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
 High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
 I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
 My eager craft through footless halls of air….

 Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
 I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
 Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
 And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I’m not a pilot, and that was especially true today as God’s Spirit took the controls. My body was forced to be still on the ground and watch as my spirit slipped those surly bonds, and I truly felt like His daughter. Reality set in, and I came back down to earth, but I flew long enough to learn the earth is never the same after flying:)

Taking Flight

Lilly’s Prayer:)

It was late when I finally got the girls settled into bed because they were still filled with all the excitement of mommy’s graduation. They were so adorable as they clapped enthusiastically for everything and looked around in awe. Lillyann clapped when mommy went across the stage and clapped again when she came down the steps to return to her seat. Mylah just clapped the whole time and grinned knowing she was part of something exciting:)

After I got Mylah to sleep, I turned my attention to getting Lillyann ready to go to sleep. Like me, she doesn’t shut down as easily as Mylah:) I was humbled and tickled at the same time as I listened to her pray. God knows that humor and humbling go together perfectly if I’m willing to see the lesson and laugh at myself. I bent my head and sat with my hands folded as Lillyann prayed. She lifted my head and told me to pray while she did. I smiled and began to thank God for loving us and then followed her model of thanking Him for everyone and everything I could think of:) Children’s prayers are filled with thanksgiving, and I needed to remember that.

I was deeply touched when Lillyann prayed, “Thank you for my daughters.” I heard mommy’s prayers in hers and joined in and thanked God for my granddaughters:) Praying together is important, and I was happy to be praying out loud with little Lillyann. I always suspected that she may lean toward pentecostal worship given her energy and need for movement. That’s okay because one of my favorite poems is “When Mahalia Sings.” It’s a wonderful reminder that worship is about an individual relationship with God  and can take many forms.

When Mahalia Sings by Quandra Prettyman.

 We used to gather in the high window of the holiness church and, tip-toe, look in and laugh at the dresses, too small on the ladies, and how wretched they all looked-an old garage for a church, for pews, old wooden chairs.
It seemed a lame excuse for a church. Not solemn or grand, with no real robed choir, but a loose jazz band, or so it sounded to our mocking ears.
So we responded to their hymns with jeers.

Sometimes those holiness people would dance, and this we knew sprang from deep ignorance of how to rightly worship God, who after all was pleased not by such foolish laughter but by the stiffly still hands in our church where we saw no one jump or shout or lurch or weep.
We laughed to hear those holiness rhythms making a church a song fest: we heard this music as the road to sin, down which they traveled toward that end.

I, since then, have heard the gospel singing of one who says I worship with clapping hands and my whole body, God, whom we must thank for all this richness raised from dust.
Seeing her high-thrown head reminded me of those holiness high-spirited, who like angels, like saints, worshiped as whole men with rhythm, with dance, with singing soul.
Since then, I’ve learned of my familiar God-He finds no worship alien or odd.

If you haven’t heard Mahalia sing, then you’ve missed something wonderful. Her love for God is evident, and she doesn’t contain that love but rather lets it flow beautifully from her whole body. I love Quandra Prettyman’s poem, and I love my pentecostal friends. I’m finding that worshiping with my whole body feeds my soul in a powerful way, so I’m raising my hands more and not worrying about what anyone else might think. Loving God and worshiping Him takes on many beautiful forms, and I know He loves each and every expression of love offered up to Him. Whether it’s a moment of silence in a hectic day or a high-spirited voice raised in praise, they all say the same thing. “I love you God!” The most important element of prayer and worship is love, and it can be whispered in solitude or shouted from the rooftop.

God reminded me that all worship blesses Him, and a dear friend reminded me that worship is a gift from God. The heart of God is at the heart of worship, and that’s all that matters. He wants to bless us, and He loves it when our love lifts prayers and praises to Him. Whatever its form, worship is about stopping for a moment, thanking God,  and letting Him know how very much I love Him. Lillyann started and ended her prayer with, “Thank you God,” and I believe that’s a great model to follow. Thank you God indeed!!

Lilly:) 

Folds & Flocks

God placed the beautiful image of a flock of grazing sheep in green pastures in my path this morning. He also showed me the difference between a flock and a fold. He knows I’m a visual leaner, and the images He provided were just what I needed to help me understand the important differences between the two. A sheepfold is a pen or an enclosure for sheep, but the folds come together to form a flock that grazes together in the pasture. Christ makes it clear in John 10:16 that He has many folds that all belong to the same flock. He is the good Shepherd who laid down His life to bring His folds together.

God is about oneness, and Jesus is one with God. Pens are necessary for sheep just as churches are necessary for Christians. It’s important to gather together and enjoy sweet Christian fellowship, but the point must always be to glorify God. Being one glorifies God; Jesus came so we could be one with Him as He is one with God. I don’t understand how His message of unity causes division; but it did then, and it does now. We are one flock with one Shepherd, and we must move from thinking from of living in a fold to loving in a flock.

Jesus says it beautifully in John 10:14-20

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”NASB

This beautiful scripture is a wonderful example of irony. Christ’s attempt to get the folds to be one flock and embrace the oneness of God causes division. I would laugh if it weren’t so very sad. Heaven is oneness in its purest form, and walking in God’s kingdom here must involve the same oneness. I’m finding that some folks cling to the fold and don’t like it when I don’t do the same. I thank God that there are many more who welcome the notion of oneness even if it is unfamiliar. As God is calling me to leave one fold and join another, I am challenged myself to maintain relationships while making new ones. The lessons of late have been tough as I navigate the unknown, but God continues to give me His peace and place passages such as John 10 in my path to encourage me to stay the course He’s set before me. I know there will be challenges along the way because the world loves division

Unity must come to my own heart first, and that is a process that will continue as long as I am in this world. Atonement is, as Oswald Chambers says, at-one-ment. Being one with God through His Son and Spirit allows me to be one with His flock. I also must see the fold for what it is and not get it confused with the flock. There is one Shepherd and many wonderful messengers who feed God’s flock. I am blessed to know and love so many faithful messengers who feed faithfully in beautifully different ways.

Folds are never to be in competition with one another. God wants us to come together as one wonderful flock. When that happens, God’s kingdom comes, and His will is done in a way that will send Satan running for shelter. The image of a beautiful flock of sheep peacefully grazing together is the image God has for all His children.

Fold of Sheep by David Wyatt

David Wyatt Sheep Fold Flock of Sheep

Awestruck Wonder!

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This was the view from my bedroom as I sat and talked with God this evening. I didn’t do much talking because I was too busy looking at His splendor. He takes my breath away and leaves me looking in awe at His amazing handiwork. I love the shaft of light coming through the clouds. I always refer to such light as ‘God Light,’ and it never ceases to capture my complete attention.

When it comes to praying, complete attention causes the worries of the world to dissipate. Being present is what love and praying are all about; every evening, I’m awestruck by God’s loving presence in the western sky and in the voices of the little girls scurrying about the house. I’m surrounded in a way I’ve never been before, and my heart is loving it. I believe I have always been surrounded, but I was just too preoccupied to notice. As I look at the sun preparing to set before me and hear the sweet sounds above me, I thank God for helping me get to this place. With Him all things are new each and every day. That’s true when it comes to His magnificent light display in the morning and evening, and it’s also true for my praying heart:)

Simple Worship

I love First Tuesday Communion and Prayer because it is a perfect example of simple worship. The first worship services involved sharing the Lord’s Supper and pausing to remember the mystery of Christ’s gift of salvation. We get further and further away from that sweet simplicity in our worship services. The intimacy of the First Tuesday meal touches my very soul, and I told a friend yesterday that I wished all our worship was as simple and beautiful.

I look at the church publications and get dizzy with all the plans. Plans for this, plans for that, plans for this month, plans for next month, and plans for six months down the road. I get overwhelmed as dates run together.  It is important to have opportunities for fellowship, and I enjoy being part of many of those activities, but the message on Wednesday night reminded me that we are here to proclaim the good news.

Perhaps it’s a sign I’m getting old, but I found myself wishing this week that worship was less complicated. As we sang “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”  Wednesday evening, I felt a sweet sense of His Holy Spirit as our hearts and attention turned away from all the busyness and bustle for a moment. God often only ends up with a moment here and a moment there. I wonder at His love and patience and pray that I will let the things of earth take their proper place.

Worship gets to be work and arranging and planning when it should be stillness and turning. Repentance allows the turning, and turning enables connection. Obedience opens the door to both peace and joy when I stop listening to the squawking noises of those determined to distract and let the still, small voice have center stage. As long as people gather together, there will be a battle for attention. Jesus didn’t need accolades or attention so He didn’t seek a favored spot on the stage. He turned His attention to God, and that’s what simple worship is all about:)