A Good Reminder

15 December 2014


DSC03882I have a group of old Christmas Carol books on my piano – part of my Christmas decorations. The other day I picked one up and began to play through some of the unfamiliar Christmas songs.  It was quickly apparent why many of these are not still being sung. When was the last time you heard, “Lullay Thou little tiny Child, By, by, lully, lullay; Lully, Thou little tiny Child, By, By, lully, lullay”? Then there’s the 3rd verse that just exudes Christmas cheer. “Herod the King, in his raging, Charged he hath this day; His men of might, in his own sight, All children young, to slay.” Imagine our toddlers singing that in a Christmas program.

However, the title of one of these Carols really made me stop and think. It offers this timeless challenge:  “From Earthly Tasks Lift Up Thine Eyes.” What good advice for this time of year when so many things demand our focus. The irony is that most of the “earthly tasks” that preoccupy us are related to Christmas, and yet those same tasks are often a distraction to the real wonder of this season – “unto us a Child is born.”

While the song may be old, the words are still applicable and meaningful.  I would encourage each of us to do exactly what the song advises – to make a deliberate choice to occasionally lift our eyes from earthly tasks – even as we wrap gifts or bake cookies – and focus on the amazing reality of Christmas.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” That’s a truth that’s still worth singing about!

Have a wonderful and worshipful Christmas!

Service Redefined (Sequel to Worship Redefined)

1 November 2014

71c6 (aka Still Learning)

Recently I spoke at a women’s conference in western PA. I spoke Friday night and three times on Saturday to over 200 women. I signed books, and listened to women as they shared their hearts.

Today I will care for a 96-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s. I will help her brush her teeth, go to the bathroom, walk with her, and find ways to occupy her time. I will listen to the same comments and stories – yet again!

What a difference between these two activities! And yet what God has been showing me is that there is no difference between these two activities. Both are service. Both are His choice for me. Both are days He has planned. Both are ministry, and both are important in His eyes. He’s also been showing me that the words I speak to one older woman are just as important as the words I speak to many women at a retreat or conference. They also need to be words that have His anointing and are seasoned with grace.

Christ spoke to multitudes, and He washed the disciple’s feet, but it was when He washed the disciple’s feet that He said He was giving us an example. I wonder – is washing the feet and clipping the toenails of a 96-year-old an even greater opportunity to be Christ-like than when I stand before a group of women and speak?

It was a privilege to speak at the Titusville Ladies’ Conference, but it’s also a privilege to serve one older woman in my home. I don’t always remember that, but I’m still learning.

“Call on Me”

9 October 2014

I need to “bubble over,” to share with someone what I saw in God’s Word this morning. Since the only person home with me right now is my mother-in-law, and she’s sleeping, I will spill over to you – my blog readers.

It was one of those times when I heard God’s word rather than just read it. I opened up a book this morning, and there in the front were these familiar words: “Call on me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJ) When I looked up the verse and read it in context, I noticed that it said, “the word of the Lord came to him a second time.” So I looked back a few verses to see what God had said to Jeremiah the first time. And these are His words: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything to hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:26,27 NIV)

Talk about motivation to call on the Lord. I love that God first reminded Jeremiah of His unlimited ability to do anything. And then He urges Jeremiah to call on Him, with the assurance that He would answer in ways that were beyond anything Jeremiah could imagine.

I also love that when God spoke to Jeremiah the second time, He makes sure Jeremiah fully understands who’s speaking. “This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it —the Lord is His name.” He reminds him of some of the “anythings” that He has already done, and of who He is. He is the Lord!

Jeremiah’s circumstances were discouraging and depressing, but God challenges him in the midst of those circumstances to call on Him, to trust that He’ll answer, and to expect great and mighty things. And God is still the same. He still urges us to call on Him. He still reminds us that He can do anything. And He still is Lord.

Just One Word

16 April 2014

Savior

Have you ever had one word in Scripture transform your thinking? This week I was reading the familiar verses in Isaiah 50 that clearly prophecy the suffering of Christ. It describes, years before it ever took place, the beating and mocking that Christ would endure at the hands of the Roman soldiers. These verses are written in the first-person. Listen to Christ’s own words recorded by Isaiah about those events. “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”

He offered His back to the cruel whips used to torture prisoners. He offered His cheeks to the ones who ripped out chunks of His beard. He didn’t turn His face away as they mocked Him and spat on Him. In those awful moments, He was not at their mercy, but was offering Himself to grant us mercy.

At every point in the path that led to Calvary Jesus could have resisted, but He offered Himself for us. I don’t know about you, but that brings me to my knees with a very inadequate, but heartfelt, “thank you!” It’s no wonder that the hymn-writer wrote, “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

 

 

 

An Endless Journey

13 February 2014

farmroadI love the vastness of God. He has no edges – no boundaries or borders. There is no limit to Him. We can know Him (how amazing!), but we can never know all of Him. What we know about God – His power, His holiness, His majesty – is enough to bring us to our knees in humble adoration and worship. But what brings us absolutely prostrate before Him is all that remains mysterious and unknown.

There are aspects of God that are incomprehensible – beyond our finite ability to grasp. And that’s part of the joy of the journey. There’s no end – no point at which we’ve arrived and can claim full understanding of God. It’s an endless and soul-satisfying quest. To know God is to love and worship Him. To love and worship Him is to long to know Him better. And so goes this glorious and ever-deepening journey – with no end in sight!

 

 

Worship Redefined

8 January 2014
Mother Lovejoy

Mother Lovejoy

Oh, what a lesson the Lord has taught me this morning. I have been so blind to a gift He’s been giving me because it wasn’t wrapped as I expected it to be. I haven’t recognized an answer to prayer because the answer was not as I imagined.

For some time I’ve been asking the Lord to give me the gift of worship – to allow me to know the joy of offering Him pure and selfless love and adoration which He so deserves. But I’ve had my own idea of how that gift would look.

At the same time, I’ve been struggling with the daily routine of my care for Peter’s mother. Mother Lovejoy  is 95 and has Alzheimer’s, and as her body slows down, and her mind becomes dimmer, she requires more of my love and care.

This morning I read a poem by Amy Carmichael, written at a time when she must have also been longing to offer God the gift of deep and heartfelt worship. She says, “Would that I…could invent some goodly instrument, passing all yet contrived to worship Thee, and send a love song singing over land and sea.” But for Amy also, the needs of others were immediate and demanding. She writes of a call that “clamors about my door, and bids me run to meet some human need.” And yet, hear God’s encouragement to her that became my own: “My child, be comforted, dear is the offering of melody, but dearer far – love’s lowliest ministry.”

God had been answering my plea for opportunities to offer Him pure worship, but they came, not in the moments of stillness, but of service. What I saw as interruptions to worship, were instead opportunities for worship.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

A Gift for the Magi

18 December 2013

Our son Sam images (1)was asked to play the Christ child in the Christmas program years ago. Most scholars believe that the wise men came later, when Mary and Joseph were in a home and Jesus was a toddler, so the church decided to depict it that way. The scene was simple – rough wooden walls, a simple table with a bowl of fruit on it, and Mary and Joseph sitting quietly with real life toddler Sam as Jesus. Sam looked up wide-eyed as the wise men arrived, then grinned when he recognized one of them as his older brother. The first of the magi knelt in worship and presented Sam (the Christ child) with a gift. Sam took it, and then quietly reached up on the table and offered his guest a piece of fruit. This unrehearsed response on Sam’s part was repeated for each of the wise men. They came bearing gifts, but left with a gift given in return.

What a picture of true worship. Like the magi, we come to worship. Sometimes it’s a difficult and long journey from our own heartaches or problems, from difficult circumstances and disappointments, but we choose to come – to make the journey, to bow before our Savior, and to offer him the gift of our worship. And always, when genuine worship takes place, we come away with a gift that Christ gives in return. It may be peace that is needed for a hardship, joy that’s been lacking because of stress and busyness, but whatever the gift, it has been chosen by Christ just for us.

I trust that you’ll take time this season to “come and worship.” The journey is always worth it. And as you offer the gift of worship to the One who alone is worthy, He will bless you with a gift in return!

Have a wonderful and worshipful Christmas!

As Pure Gold

25 November 2013

refiner's fireIt’s a story I’ve used over and over again – especially when speaking on holiness. It’s a familiar story told by Amy Carmichael about her visit to a goldsmith as he was refining gold. The story gives such a clear picture of God’s work of refining in our own lives, but I especially love the end when Amy asks the goldsmith how he knows when the gold is pure. His answer is such a powerful reminder of God’s goal for us. “When I can see my face in it then it is pure.”

And yet, as often as I’ve shared this story – as often as I’ve let it speak to my own heart – I found a wonderful new truth in it as I was re-reading it recently. It was actually a side comment in parentheses, but still such a wonderful reminder. Amy Carmichael shared that the goldsmith never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. When he begins the refining process, the gold is never left unattended.

I love that reminder.  When we are “in the fire” (never a comfortable place to be), our Refiner will never leave us.  He has a purpose for the flames and will stay right there to see that they work for our good. Gold in an unattended crucible can be ruined.

This isn’t just a nice thought from Amy Carmichael’s story. This truth is solidly backed by Scripture. Psalm 34:18 assures us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted…” He never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. Both the flames and the gold are under His loving and watchful eye.  I find such encouragement in these words. God will never leave us unattended in the flame, but will lovingly accomplish His purposes. And as Job declared, “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” And so will we!

 

(This one’s for you, April.)

Boxes Again!

20 September 2013

View from our house

View from our house

We’re in the middle of boxes – again. It wasn’t too long ago (actually less than a year), that I wrote a blog about being done with boxes. Last October we made the move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and I was ready to be done with boxes. But God had other plans, and we have just made the move back to Pennsylvania, and are, once again, surrounded by boxes.

Our new home is a wonderful old farmhouse located among the hills and cornfields of central PA. The location is wonderful, but the house has its challenges – small bedrooms with no closets, for example. However, we are slowly finding just the right place for pieces of furniture (sometimes after my patient husband has moved them a couple of times), and are beginning to add touches that transform it from a house into our home.

As is often the case, God has used my present circumstances (boxes included) to teach me a spiritual lesson. I recently read these words from Hebrews in my quiet time: “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are His house.” (Hebrews 3:6) I am God’s house, and it’s God’s plan for His Son to move in and make it His home. It may mean moving some things (like my priorities) around until they’re in just the right place. It will definitely include His decorating touch – filling it with the things that bring Him pleasure like humility, peace, love, and patience. He may need to get rid of some of my things to make room for His things. And He definitely still has boxes to unpack – things that still need to be added to make it a place where He can be completely at home.

I’d like to be done with boxes, but I’m so thankful that God isn’t – that He continues to unpack the things that I need to make my heart His home.

A New Name

3 August 2013

I never really liked my name. Esther certainly wasn’t one of the popular names when I was younger – it still isn’t now that I’m older. It didn’t have a neat nickname, or a catchy shortened version. But it’s a name that my father loved, and so I’m Esther by his choice

I don’t know what name I would have chosen if I had been in on the decision-making, but I found a name in Scripture that I would love to have. It’s not a name that I would actually want to be called, but it is a name that I would love to be my Heavenly Father’s choice for me.

In Isaiah 62 God promises that the day will come when His people will have a new name. They will no longer be known by some of the negative names that have been associated with them, but will now be called “Hephzibah.” As with most Biblical names, Hephzibah was chosen because of its meaning -“My delight is in her.” God was conveying a wonderful message to Israel through His choice of this name. It was to be more than just a change of name, but a new identity – an acknowledgement that God’s favor was again on His people, and that He truly delighted in them.

Zephaniah 3:17 also gives Israel this same hope: “He (the Lord) will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Imagine that! God’s delight in Israel will be so great that it will cause Him to burst into singing.

I want to delight the Lord. I want to live in a way that brings Him joy; that pleases Him. I want to make Him so happy that He bursts into song. I want to be Hephzibah.

For now, I’m still called Esther, and I’ve gotten used to that name. But I can’t imagine any greater joy in life (or eternity) than to have my Heavenly Father look at me and say, “I’m giving you a new name. Hephzibah!”

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