23 December, 2016

Are you in Wonder?

Cross posted from Adventagain.blogspot.com

Wonder in a child's eyes is a spectacular sight.  The open amazement and awe is so very beautiful to behold.  In fact, one of my Christmas joys is to see our children experience the wonder of their gifts.  I look to see if they 'really like' their gifts; I look to see the wonder in their eyes.  And I know immediately if we have slightly missed the mark for the look of appreciation is so very different from the look of wonder or awe.  And today, even with our grown children I want them to experience wonder!  Perhaps they are too old now.  Perhaps wonder is a child-only event.  In fact, in looking for a picture to express 'wonder' for this writing, I struggled.  And it perplexed me that all the pictures labeled as 'Christmas wonder' were of children.   I could not find one single picture of an adult expressing wonder.  Why is that?  Are we so mature, so hard-hearted, so immune that our wonder has vanished?

Do you feel wonder in your life?  Will you feel wonder on Christmas Eve at your church service or on Christmas Day as you formally celebrate Christ being born into our world?


I daresay that we've lost our wonder.  Michael Yacconelli in his book Dangerous Wonder, said "the most critical issue facing Christians today is dullness. ‘We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into ‘nice people’.  But radical Christianity wasn’t nice; it was category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional; it spread like wildfire through the 1st century and was considered by those in power to be dangerous. ‘I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and ... well ... dangerous’. I want to be dangerous to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered dangerous by our predictable and monotonous culture.’

We've somehow lost the wonder of Christmas.  We've lost the wonder of what we celebrate!  We have embraced Baby Jesus coming into the world but have we let him remain as a baby in our hearts and minds?  Yes, He came humbly, He came quietly, He came in human form - all so that we could somehow begin to comprehend Him and welcome Him into our lives and hearts.  BUT....we cannot keep Him in the manger.  Our wonder today rests solely on who He is today, was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  And who is He?

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will [a]rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

He is our Wonderful Counselor. He is our Mighty God.  He is our Eternal Father.  He is the Prince of Peace.  These are not just words from 2700 years ago.  These are the personal qualities of the Christian God.  I ponder today whether I've sold him short?  That's right, have we sold God short?  To sell short = to underestimate the true value or worth of something or someone.  Is your God still in a manger scene?  Has your God been defeated and destroyed amidst all the chaos in the world today?  In those dark, lonely moments have you forgotten that He is your Counselor?  Did you leave Him at your church last week, last month, last year?

The God I strive to serve IS the Counselor.  He IS a mighty God.  He IS eternal.  He IS Prince and King of Peace.  And you what else, He's waiting to see me on Christmas morning.  He waiting to see if my eyes behold wonder as I open my gift from Him.  Just like us parents, he too desperately wants to see the wonder in our eyes.  He waits to see if we truly have wonder in our eyes on Christmas morning!

We may offer Him the look of appreciation but it's WONDER He wants!  And it is wonder we desperately desire.



11 December, 2016

No Room

Cross post from Adventagain.blogspot.com
Whew!  What a few weeks we've had in our family! We've experienced overwhelming joy and
overwhelming tragedy.  And yet, life keeps moving, the sun is still rising every morning.  And a Christmas tree stands in my den so here we go again!  The turkey is still in my freezer and the calories are still on my hips but I've got to make room for more activities.  And if my Christmas activities and happenings are not enough I can also work on our daughters upcoming wedding plans!!  (we are so excited for those two to be wed).  But truly, I find myself thinking I have no room for anything else.

Or do I?  I certainly have no room for another scone or piece of pie....but somehow I make room!  I certainly have no more room on my calendar but somehow things keep appearing and we make room.  We make room for what's important to us or expected of us, right?

Mary made room...certainly her life was interrupted but she made room.  Joseph did too and they were clearly going waaaaayyyyy against the norm!  But, why didn't the Innkeeper make room for Joseph and Mary?  If he had only known Whom he had turned away...
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:6-8 New American Standard Bible
In the book, Christmas from the Backside, Ellsworth Kallas offers a good picture of what 'inn' life was like 2000 years ago. The inn: "It was probably a series of thatched rooms built around a central courtyard-looking more like covered porches than like rooms.  Travelers brought their own food-and the pot in which to cook it-their own bedding, and often their firewood.(Handel Brown, "When Jesus Came," in The Light of Christmas).  The hotel in Bethlehem was probably a shabby sort of place, perhaps several hundred years old.  They were usually dirty, uncomfortable, badly kept, and badly managed.  Innkeepers in those days had a generally unsavory reputation, probably because their places were so often use for immoral and criminal purposes. (A. C. Bouquet, Everyday Life in New Testament Times).

So what are we to think?  Poor, foolish innkeeper?  Poor Mary, Joseph, and unborn Jesus?  Perhaps we are to see that Jesus' entrance into the world was humble.  His entrance was rather quiet but His entrance was for everyone.  He came to this world in an unlikely manner and in an unlikely place.  It was a place full of unwanted people, unsavory characters.  Yes, even the Innkeeper.  And yes, even you and me.

When you read the Bible do you jump into the cast?  Can't we do that?  Isn't the Bible called the LIVING Word of God.....active today, tomorrow, yesterday, forever??  So when we read let's not just read an old story and barely see the words but instead let's jump into the story and find ourselves.  How are we the Innkeeper?  Or more personally....in my life today, who have I shut out?  When the Christ-inside-of-me knocks on the door of my heart, do I say, 'Sorry, no room'.  Or more truth here...how often do I say, No Room.

Or am I so used to my deep-south, American life that when Jesus comes to people who look different than me or who are unsavory or who live in other countries with other faiths, I simply walk-away and say No Room in my heart and attitude.

This baby born of Mary came for e v e r y one of us.  And He came in love not in condemnation.  Is there room inside of you?  Can we stop the Christmas music, the shallow Christmas celebrations and scream from the top of our lungs.....YES, THERE IS ROOM INSIDE OF ME.  COME LORD JESUS COME.  COME IN.  COME CHANGE ME.  COME FILL ME WITH YOUR TYPE OF LOVE.

Thank you Lord God, that your Love is unconditional.  Thank you that you came to save me, the innkeeper....the unsavory one.

27 November, 2016

Why Christmas?

Cross post from Adventagain.blogspot.com
There are many joys to being in friendship with people from other countries.  We talk about
customs, fashions, family routines and EVERY other subject.  But one of my favorite times is when foreign visitors ask questions that are both completely simple and completely complex.  These type questions absolutely stump me.  Let me give a few examples:
•Ms. Kathy, why do people in the US put trees in their homes during the Christmas season?  And what do those round objects on your front door symbolize?
•Ms. Kathy, I enjoyed your church environment but why is everyone so sad?
•Ms. Kathy, could you explain the Holy Spirit?

These questions are real examples.  But today, I want to ponder this question: Why do you celebrate Christmas?  What's all the fuss about? Why was/is there so much excitement about a baby being born?

Why indeed?  Ellsworth Kallas, a favorite author of mine, calls our celebration of Christmas the Christmas scandal.  He contends, and I agree, that our need for Christmas started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and their desire to choose themselves over God.  And ever since that one selfish act mankind has been trying to find his way back to the God of creation.

Trying to find our way back to God...what?  What if you realize that all your candle lighting, all your church going, all your good deeds will never be enough?  What if, on your journey to get back to God you realize the task is impossible.  What about the emptiness inside each of us, an emptiness just waiting to be filled?  And, what if we lived in the time before Jesus was born into the world?  Can you imagine the forlornness they must have felt?  Can you imagine the waiting for the gift that would reconcile people to God?  People had waited for hundreds of years for the promised Messiah.  And finally, on one lonely night... a baby was born.  And suddenly real Light had appeared in our world.  New hope, new life had come to earth. That is the scandal of Christmas.  Our self-centered natures, or sin, caused the miracle of Christmas Day...He came to save us.  No wonder the song, "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus," resonates in so many Advent church services.  For many, many people He was the long awaited and expected Savior.

So how about us?  Is the Christ Baby our long expected Savior?  Or is He just a baby in a manger, is he just the 'old Christmas story?"  I want my spirit to be stirred by the anticipation and excitement of finally receiving a precious gift.  I want my spirit to rejoice that Light has come to my completely darkened, blind eyes.  I want this Christmas to be scandalously glorious.  For it is my sin that He came to save me from and to lead me back to my true place in God.  Now THAT'S a Christmas gift!

I've often wondered why new Chinese Christians are SO dedicated to their faith.  They take nothing for granted, they walk a faith walk that inspires me.  Why? I wonder.  And the answer I believe, is that before they learned of this Jesus they lived without any hope, without any spiritual awareness and found themselves surrounded by darkness.  Perhaps they had rituals and had heard fairy tales of a god but these notions seemed senseless and incomplete.  But once they met the Light of Christ they ran to greet Him.  And now, their lives reflect that Light.  And they now lived amazed at this Christmas gift.  For when all you know is darkness, Light shines oh, so bright.

Advent is time for me to realize just what Christmas Day means.  I mean, do we recognize why Jesus  left heaven and came to this broken place we call Earth?  I do not want to forget my role in this story,  my selfishness and my self-centered choices that make Christmas needed. Without this Christmas birth, we would still be waiting to somehow get out of our hopeless lives.

Christmas happens for each of us!  "Come, Thou long expected Jesus / Born to set Thy people free; / From our fears and sins release us, / Let us find our rest in Thee.… "
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:6-9

27 October, 2016

The Engagement

Photo: InkedFingers.com
Big news, the precious girl is engaged to be married.  How can this be, her mom pondered.  Wasn't she just born yesterday?  How can she be all grown up and ready to marry?  But oh, what joy the mother felt when she saw the sheer delight on the daughter's face.  The utter joy in her eyes was unmatched as daughter and mom shared the moment of 'he asked me'!  It is a privilege to have heart-to-heart moments of sheer delight with another person.  It is a privilege of motherhood to be heart-to-heart with your own offspring as they experience the joy of a life time.  And, it is a privilege of fatherhood to see family wholly celebrating together, in love together with each celebrating the other.

The mom reflected that this journey of engagement took a path of curves, turns, downhills and uphills:
The first meeting at 13
The years that neither forgot the other
The re-meeting
The days spent getting to know one another
The laughter
The tears
The shared journeys
The solo excursions
The dark times
The reconciliation
The words of apology and forgiveness
The continuing journey
The knowledge of YES
The anticipation
The planning
The timing
The record of the event
The acceptance
The love
The joy
The celebration
The complete family moment
The heart of the Father

As I read this mother's account of a daughter's engagement, it thrills my soul to celebrate the love of this couple.  But I also notice something else in this listing.  It seems familiar to me as it could be my own love story and in fact, it is.....the ultimate love story.  It's how the holy Father has pursued me.  And, I dare say it's the same way the holy One has pursued you.  It defines for me the joy of the Father in our final acceptance of Him.  What a beautiful picture of ultimate love.  As I read back over the steps recorded above I see God's pursuit of me.  I realize His patient waiting, I remember His overt attempts to get my attention and accept His love.  Notice that the mom's writing concludes with two phrases:
The complete family moment
The heart of the Father

The complete family moment: our families live all of life together which means a lot of curves, and ups and downs if they're the normal family.  And as families do, I bet this family grew, forgave, and changed over the years.  And finally, in one night of celebration the circle of family love seemed whole and healed which in my little mind leads to the heart of the Father.  I'm completely sure that the family above was bursting with joy and I sense this same Joy in the Father.  I can sense how He might feel as we all come together and finally accept Love, commit to Love and just simply relish in Love.

I sure hope I can see my life as engaged as the couple above.  I sure hope I can sense the great love, the great joy, the great celebration that my Groom has for me.

 ...and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.  Isaiah 62:6

25 September, 2016

This Guy

There's this guy in my town that is relentless in his work.  Every time I drive by his place of work he is there.....early morning or late evening. EVERY TIME.  6 a.m.?  Yes.  6:00 p.m.? Yes.  Seriously, there he is again.  When I first encountered this guy, my thoughts were not so kind.  They were along the lines of, "Oh boy, what is he hoping to accomplish?"  "Does this really help bring love into the world?"  Does this really help the cause of Christ?"  I daresay that many driving past him shared similar thoughts as mine.  A curious character, we thought.

But now, after months and months of seeing this one man, doing his one thing my thoughts have shifted.  In his relentless effort he's changed his work place and he's changed me.  What started off as a piece of ground outside a fast food restaurant at a very busy intersection where people were scurrying from one appointment to the next has become...actually Holy Ground.  Now it's a place where horns honk as they drive by and where I want to see this guy.  I want to wave at him and I want him to wave and point at me.  Now, it's a place I look forward to driving past in hopes of seeing him and feel that brush of God's love.  Yes, this one guy and Holy ground.  He is truly at work!  He is in his workplace.  He's turned a patch of ground into his holy work.

How is it that the God of the universe can and WILL use us in our everyday, sign-holding days?  How is it that He just wants us to take one tiny step of faith and then He shows His unbelievable blessing and grace....

...what a nice, little safe message I thought as I was about to close this blog out but a persistent voice kept ringing in my head.  "There is more to 'this guy', there is more I have to say to you, daughter." Here are the lessons I have received from the more:

1.  We all have a mission.  Mine may not be holding a sign at a busy intersection but I can be sure that there is a mission with my name on it.  Please notice the word ALL.  And its up to us to seek it, find it and step out.  It's not hard.  It's probably a nudge we have been feeling for a long time.  Most missions are found in the backyards of our lives.
And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...Matthew 28:17-19

2.  Our 'signs' speak for us.  This guy that I've watched all summer is sending one message with his sign.  He, himself is obscured.  His sign's message is not about him.  It clearly points to only ONE.  I, too carry a sign in my life everyday and that sign carries a message.  People may not see me but they see my sign.  Woe is me....if my sign only speaks of myself, my needs, my life.
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

3.  The message we carry is for those outside of our safe boundary.  Please notice that 'this guy' is not standing in his neighborhood or in his church parking lot or his comfortable Bible study group but he is standing all alone on a corner in hot, hot Alabama weather.  His message is for those who do not understand or believe the words on his sign.  I'm afraid that IF I ever even carry a sign it is mainly to those who already know the message.  I'm comfortable showing love to those in my inner circle but I desperately want to carry a sign to those who DO NOT know of His love.
"...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8

4.  The one step of GO leads to unexpected JOY.  I bet 'this guy' didn't have any idea of what would happen after he made his sign and set to work.  I bet he was just relieved to be one-stepping his way to the call God had for him.  But oh, the joy he has offered our community.  And I bet the joy has overwhelmed him as well.

Where is your patch of ground?  What is the sign that we've been given to carry?  Who are those in our world waiting to glimpse a brush of God's love? Am I brave enough to risk rushing out into the public places and showing my faith?  Imagine the impact on each of our worlds.  What sign will I pick up and carry today?  Even in the heat or the cold will I step forward?  Where is the holy ground for me?

27 August, 2016

HE Summer Lessons

This is true.....in the last week, three different people in my life have asked me, told me, and questioned me about my writing.  "Why aren't you writing?  You need to write, it's part of your journey.  I'm so sorry I haven't seen your writing recently."  Now, it did get my attention when these three separate 'nudges' came my way for that is a very unusual incident in my world.  So....I considered myself nudged and begin to ponder what I might share.....but soon I came to realize I had no words to give.  Empty.  Distracted.

So yesterday, after a busy day of commitments I got home around 4:45 and noticed the weather had cooled to a breezy 91°!  So I decided to take my 2 mile walk...As I walked, I begin to think about summer ending, football games beginning, early school days and the newness and freshness fall offers.  Now I had to reeeaaaalllyyy stretch to feel fall yesterday and in fact couldn't get there.  But it was in those moments of looking forward to crisp fall mornings that I was reminded of important summer lessons.  Here are a few:

Lesson 1.  "I told you so"
This is a favorite, teasing comment of a friend of mine!  And I rejoice that there are people in my life who speak truth to me even when I'm not ready to hear it or accept it.  I'm thankful that there are those around me who dare to be 'truth-tellers' and not just those who tickle my ears with what I want to hear.  Truth-telling in love is quite a gift.  Aren't we all expected to give and welcome that type of truth?  Why are we afraid of truth?  Do I try to hide behind the cloak called perfection-success? I'm pretty sure there are no perfect people or perfect families.  Yet, we live cloaked lives in fear of letting others know of our pain.  We fear telling each our own truth.  It is time to acknowledge we all need truth and need to embrace the truth of our own failures and the truth of Joy available in that brokenness.  He would say: "I told you so" because I love you so.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

Lesson 2.  Speaking less than 1000 words has advantages
When my son was in high school, he once asked his dad, "Dad, do you daily decide that you're only going to speak 1000 words?  And then, when you get home your count is at 999?"  This has become a funny family story as my husband is surrounded by three family members who can talk and talk and talk.  But this summer, I relearned the power and calm silence offers.  The constant barrage of talk distracts me and actually disrupts the spirit of God inside me.  For in the talk, in the electronics attached to my hand, the news, the radio, people talking, meetings, problem-solving, even sweet words and loving words...my world begins to tilt.  It's ONLY in the silence, the step, step, step of my walk or the stillness of merely sitting in silence...that is where I meet God.  And it's where I can actually hear my own soul breathing.  Not just 1000 words but no words.  We've got to be brave and turn off the words.  Force ourselves to just be...just be...no book, no music...just be...
...most times He uses no words but I can hear Him.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

Lesson 3.  Be WITH the one you're with...
Rush, rush that seems to be my general gear.  Meeting to meeting to meeting but what about the ones I'm meeting with...who are they?  What are their concerns and needs as we sit and meet?  Do I see them or am I already to my next to-do item?  These precious minutes with the one right in front of you are like no other.  Minutes meant to impact, to teach, to care, to see one another.  Let's have eyes to see each other.  Surely my next appointment will take care of itself but in this current moment see the one you are with...He is always with us so attentive to our every word.  And not at all rushed to get to the next appointment.  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:24

Lesson 4.  I adore Willis Carrier.
Willis Carrier is my hero.  In my deep-south opinion, he is the greatest inventor of all!   He has changed my life, your life, the life of millions of people.  He is the inventor of air-conditioning!  These days he is my best, best friend.  Yes, it is so very hot in the final days of summer.  So that cool air feels so very good.  But...
But ironically the unconditioned air makes me feel alive.  It's those moments when after being indoors all day, perhaps with a light sweater to warm me in the ultra cool air, that I love the first few seconds of warm sun when I walk outdoors.  Somehow it is in those moments that life, blessing, and heartbeat show up.  That is when I know that I'm alive and filled with purpose.  That is when life seems grand and large and overwhelming and amazing.  It's the fresh air, alive with possibility.  Don't we all need to breathe deep and be reminded of the miracle found in a big lungful of breath?...Oh, and He created the air.  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26


22 July, 2016

The Still


She had just finished a two mile walk in the hot, steamy Southern morning.  It was a morning that the deep South often experiences where no wind blows and the air feels thick with moisture.  As I watched from behind windows clouded with moisture from the air-conditioned comfort, I saw the woman standing very still on the patio, her back to my view.  She stood stock-still as sweat flowed from her.  She made no move to wipe the rivulets falling.  She simply stood.  What is she doing, I wondered?  Why would she not come into the cool air-conditioned home and take refuge and drink deeply?  It was then I noticed her earbuds were still in place.  She was listening.  Oh, now I understood, she is listening to the end of a podcast or the end of a song.  I felt a little uncomfortable staring out at this woman but found myself unable to pull away.  More minutes passed...more standing.  I begin to hear her....is she singing?  Who stands in a wide-open space in 95 degree heat and sings while dripping sweat?  She sings, her hands reach out at her sides.  Still she stands.  A few moments pass and she moves, ok now she's coming inside.  Quickly, I get busy so that I'm am not caught in my voyeurism!  But as I peek back at her she is still just standing there!  The only change I can detect is that the earbuds have been removed.  She stands stock-still.  Her hands are open as if waiting but they are down at her sides, fingers slightly spread.  She stands....She stands...for minutes she stands...waiting...is she hearing?  What is she seeking?  What is she receiving?

How do I still myself?  Or is the more appropriate question for me, DO I choose to be still.  I listen to the news and the pain contained within, I listen to politicians and their loud voices, I listen to office drumbeats of stress and strain, I listen to children calling out in need, direction and dreams.  I listen to washing machines, errands to grocery, school schedules and teacher conferences.  I listen to a world of hurt and ailing souls.  I listen but find no solace or answer.

The noise will not stop...nothing can make it stop....until I make a HARD choice.  And this choice requires effort and discipline.  Most of us don't make the choice of stillness; its too hard.  The woman I watched made a choice to exercise and she then made a choice, a hard choice, to stand still...still... ....still...still.  And it is in those sweat-drenched but chosen moments, those moments you and I create and carve out in our days....those are the moments He comes.  No music, no podcasts, no news.  The silence of a backyard.  The silence of a house.  The silence of an office.

He comes.  In the craziness of this world, in the craziness of days....my answer comes from the still. Close your eyes....turn off all the noise around you...be still...
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

19 June, 2016

FaLaLa, FaLa, LaLa....🎢🎢🎡🎢

At a concert last week, the artist proclaimed words of hope, 'in the midst of recent tragedies we find ourselves at a loss.  But one thing I do know is that we can stand up and sing.  We can sing a song of hope for the world.  And sing we will tonight.'  Additionally, this performance came only a month after I had the chance to visit New York and experience some beautiful Broadway music and singing.  Leaving the theatre always makes me want to break out in song and dance...I feel so alive, so thrilled, so elated to have experienced such wide-open passion and talent.  What do these experiences say to me? Sing when you are distraught and sing when you are joy-filled...just sing!

I realized today that I have been subconsciously pondering these experiences all week.  I've had all sorts of memories bubble up.  Memories of song....
...She sat with her dying adult son and sang to him the song she had sung when he was just a baby boy, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.  You'll never know dear how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away."
...Another friend sat in a retreat listening to a speaker, when suddenly the speaker begin to sing.  She sang a song that offered healing to my friend, a healing she did not even know she needed.  "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be."
...My mama sang too.  At the end of her life she sang with a low, raspy voice.  My sister used to play Christmas carols in the car and Mama would sing..."O come all ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant"...  Mama's little raspy voice filled us with so much love and joy...oh, that I could hear her sing again.
What is it about song that lifts our spirits?  Surely, the talent of the musicians is inspiring  as we hear their talent and perfection in performance.  I'm in awe of their abilities.  But I know that it is not the perfection of the singing...it's the passion of the singer.  It's watching a performance knowing the singer is fully engaged and offering to the audience all their heart has to give....all the love, all the joy, all the honesty, all the wide-open trust of showing their true inner self.

Are we made for the stage too?  Are we made to stand and sing with passion?  Have you ever turned up the music in your life?  Once in a blue moon I've allowed myself to turn up the music and sing.  And those days are unlike any others!   In the privacy of my home, I have sung songs of hope, I have sung songs of despair, I have sung songs of joy and thanksgiving, and I have sung love songs.  Perhaps song is the true language of our hearts.  Perhaps the Spirit who lives in each of our hearts longs to burst out and sing.   Perhaps we are to declare to sing a song of hope for the world.

But I don't sing.  I hold back when I could sing.  I sing softly as my voice is not too great.  I sing without realizing the words and their meaning.  I hold back because of what others may think, I hold back because of what I may think about myself!!  I'm scared to be so radical.  I'm scared to be so vulnerable.  But what if....what if...I became wide-open like a little child and just sang with no inhibition and with wide-open passion?

What impact would that have on me and on my Father??  I wonder if the impact song and music has on me is the same impact my song might have on my Lord?  I wonder if He marvels to hear my voice sing songs to Him.  I wonder if He is as touched as I was when I heard my Mama sing.  I wonder if He's longing to hear me sing from my soul of all the joys, all the fear and all the pain that live in me?  I wonder if that's when the deep connection is actually made....by song not words.  Song that is fully engaged and offering to God all my heart has to give....all the love, all the joy, all the honesty, all the wide-open trust.  

When nobody is listening...let's sing...for He wants to hear our music of song...He wants to hear our wide-open trust of giving Him our honest selves.  

LaLa, FaLa, LaLa....🎢🎢🎡🎢
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:19

...AND a worship album of song for everyday;
and an incredible portrayal of surrender and love to our 
heavenly Father. (click to open)
abeyellen.org

30 April, 2016

Oh, You Know Me

I found myself walking down a dark hallway, beautiful candles were burning, and light music was playing.  The smells were of lavender and gardenia.  As I followed my guide down this hallway there was only the quiet slap of my slippers and our whispered voices.  "Here we are...please take a moment to get comfortable and I will return to begin your facial."  Oh, the beautiful spa life...this was  a special day of relaxation and fun with my girlfriend.  I had anticipated this for several weeks and finally the time had arrived.  We were about 10 minutes into this experience when my itty-bitty brain committee came awake and begin to speak words into my head...."you realize, that with a facial ALL your makeup comes off!  You realize you really don't know these people you are with?  You realize you don't look really great without your makeup?  You realize people won't really like you if they see the real you?"  Ugh, I really despise this itty-bitty committee...BUT, I began to buy into this garbage talk.  My thoughts were swarming all over about how I could reapply makeup really quickly or if I could possibly get a 'partial/make-up stays-on' facial.  What a ridiculous thought as a gallon of steam was pouring down over my face!!!  What an absurd thought process I was caught up in!

It was in this great seam of frustration and actually fear....that I heard Him...I know you.  I see you.  I see you as I created you.  You are beautiful to me. I know you.  I know you love Me.  I love you just as you are.

I then realized that the steam and my tears were commingling.  I know you, He kept whispering.  Just relax and surrender to Me for I know you.  My tears were coming quickly at this point.  I knew there was more in this message than I dared to explore.

There are many verses in the Bible that speak about knowing God or God knowing us.  Ponder these with me.
You have searched me, Lord
and you know me.Ps. 139:1 
Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me,  and lead me in the way everlasting.Ps. 139:23-24
But the verses that keep calling to me are from John 21.  I just wrote on this scripture several weeks ago.  Why would I be called back to it now?
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”John 21:15-17
I've always read these verses with the obvious focus on Jesus' words TO John.  But today....I hear a different message.  I feel Jesus encouraging me to state what I know out loud, particularly to out speak that itty-bitty committee....
You're not good enough, they say.
I say to my King:  You search me and KNOW me. You KNOW that I love you.
They say, if people really knew you they will not like you.
But I say to you, Jesus, You know my anxious thoughts, You KNOW all things; you KNOW that I love you.

Oh Lord, keep teaching me.  Keep teaching me to call out to you and call out the truth of your love for me.  Keep teaching me to let go of all the outward and focus on You, my inward, my love, my completeness.

02 April, 2016

P. S. Easter?

was asked this week, "Mrs. Kathy, what comes after Easter?  I mean, the Santa celebration is well over, the New Year has passed, the Easter bunny has hopped off and we've celebrated Jesus so what's next."  Indeed, I thought, what is next?

This student's words strike me today and they strike me hard.  "We've celebrated Jesus so what's next?"  This brings so many questions to my mind....have I celebrated Jesus?  And why is this question in the past tense?  Shouldn't I/we be in the process of always celebrating Jesus?  Of course, yes, is the answer to this pondering.  But I daresay that my week since Easter Sunday has been less than a full celebration of who this Messiah truly is....the I AM.

So I asked myself today, what difference does Easter make in my life?  Really, what day-to-day difference does it make?  The disciples found themselves in a similar situation as they gathered eight days after their Jesus had been killed and then ressurected.  Some believed and some had a hard time believing the astounding story being told.  Today I've looked at several verses in John that are guiding my thoughts.
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” John 20:26-31The Message
And then only a few verses later another insightful conversation occurs:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  John 21:15-17
So the first answer to my question, what difference does Easter make, is life and hope.  As Thomas discovered, the hope of life forever with no pain, death defeated and absolute Joy.  Of course...Hallelujah!  But inasmuch as I feel joy in this Hope I also feel unsettled.  My spirit becomes restless as I wait on earth for my Hope to come for I often question what I have experienced and what life brings.

And then Jesus appears again to me as He did to his disciples.  On the beach and after cooking breakfast for the disciples, his closest friends, He probes and asks questions of great meaning.  Do you love me more than these?  Feed my lambs.  Do you truly love me?  Take care of my sheep.  Do you love me?  Feed my sheep.   According to John these were some of Jesus' last words to the disciples ...and to me....and to you.  Could these last words of Jesus be the essence of Easter and my purpose?

Kathy, Enrique, Heather, Jose, Esther, Moses, Jack, Samuel, Mary, Yi Sun, Liza, Eric, Pierre... ...do....you...love....me?  Do you love me more than these?  Do you love me more than your friends or more than your occupation and success, more than your life?  Then feed my lambs, take care of  my sheep and feed my sheep.

I can act naive and dense and close my eyes and heart to the sheep and lambs in my world....and I do all too often.  I act as though I'm confused as to who He is referring, but I know.  Just as surely as Thomas felt the the nail marks in His hands, I know.  He is referring to my neighborhood, my office, the people I'm uncomfortable around, the people from different countries, with different beliefs.  He's referring to the people I see everyday who have no Hope.

The P. S. of Easter is...hope, love AND to be His witnesses. 'For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.' Acts 1:22b  A witness?  Yes, simply sharing my journey, my story, my life.  Simply sharing what I have seen, what I have experienced, what I have lived, what questions I wrestle with still.  That is the only witness I have, don't you agree?  Are you called to be a witness this P.S Easter day?

If I can't accept my duty to feed the sheep then I cannot answer the question, Do you love me?  Do you love me more than these?

26 March, 2016

Hallelujah Chorus

Another Easter Sunday is here!  Hallelujah, He is risen!  We have hope and a future!  As I sit here this morning, I'm having to force myself to stay in this moment and repeat the words, Hallelujah He is risen.  For in my life this Easter weekend there is much beautiful distraction...my family is in town, there are pictures to be made, food to be cooked, stories to be told, laughter to consume me, dresses and shirts to iron and dishes to wash.  These beautiful distractions of life give me great pleasure and joy but as this Easter Day wears on I can sense that the chorus of Hallelujah may become more faint.  Let it not be so, Lord.

The story of Easter morning from Luke 24 is one I never tire of reading.  There is so much drama and joy and unexpectedness.  The women walking to the tomb to anoint His body with spices and perfumes, the stone rolled away, the shock, the two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening, the women returning to the disciples to share the shock of their discovery, Peter racing back to see for himself.  And on the same day, two friends walking to Emmaus have an encounter, "were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"Luke 24:32
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:33-45
We can well imagine how exciting and disturbing all these happenings had to have been for these men and women. For the last three years, their lives had been dedicated to this Teacher.  And inasmuch as they traveled with Him, listened to Him and saw His miracles, the reality seemed to become too, too much to believe on that morning of all mornings.  Doubts, discussions, fear, joy and amazement were all words used to describe their emotions.  I wonder if the disciples were simply in information overload or in shock!  It had to be mind-blowing for them.  As they were discussing the events surely their thoughts ran to what do we do next?  What do we do now?  What will happen next?  And beautifully enough, the Savior then appears before them to instruct and guide them to open their minds so that they could understand the next step, the next hour, the next day.

These words from the scripture also describe my emotions.  I've experienced Easter morning.  It is a time of joy and amazement.  Hallelujah, Christ is born!  But now, right now the big event is over.  The Easter service is over, the Easter Bunny has appeared and lunch is finished.  I see tail-lights looking back at me...now its just me.....and I realize that all I really want is to go back and listen for the Hallelujah chorus.  I want to experience Easter like the disciples.  It was so healing for them to discuss all that they had seen and witnessed.  It was spiritually healthy for them to question and wonder and ponder the events of the day.  They were vulnerable enough with each other to talk about the hard issues of the day.  Can't we do the same?  Have we looked at Easter, I mean, really looked at it?  And asked what is next in my life?  What is my next step?  What do I do with this Easter news? Do I treat today as just another beautiful Sunday or do I let it change me?  Does this Easter Day become Easter living?  Is today the day I let go of my pain, my heartache and accept, finally accept His work on my behalf?   And because of that work....finally accept His unconditional love, joy and peace?  For it is the very work of His cross that gives me hope.  Doesn't my heart burn within me when I completely let Him have all of me?

For today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....don't let the Hallelujah fade from my mind and heart, Lord.  Let me live and shout it over and over again to those who have yet to learn the words.


P.S. Personal note: Happy Birthday Mama!  

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