Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rescuing The Prodigal

Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' ~ Luke 15:4-6, The Message

The Lost Sheep, by B.R. Burton
I still get chills whenever I watch the video I've posted below.  It's been around for quite awhile now.  Perhaps you've seen it before.  Or perhaps this is your first time viewing it.  If so, all I can say is, 'Be prepared.'

The skit itself was performed at an event called Winterfest, in Knoxville, Tennessee, back in 2006. YouTube boasts over 19 million views of it on their site, and I'm sure I've viewed it at least one of those million.  Okay, I'm embellishing, as my darling daughter would say.  But hey -- I've really seen this lots and LOTS of times, often posting it on my Facebook page over the years.  It's simple -- amateurish, even - yet I have found it to be most profound and so powerful. I've seen other versions of it done by other church youth groups, but this one remains my personal favorite and close to my heart. As I said, it still gives me chills. 

When we first come to know the Lord and surrender everything -- our heart, our mind, our spirit, our very life -- it's a beautiful thing, isn't it?  Everything is so wonderful and new. And He becomes everything to us and truly is our First Love, as described in Revelation 2:4.  

But, Revelation 2:4 isn't just a verse containing a lovely sentiment and description of Who the Lord is; it's actually an admonishment to the church of Ephesus, pointing out that they have forsaken the One Who is --was-- their First Love. 

But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your First Love]. ~ Amplified Bible

As time goes by, so many things can come between us and the Lord -- love/sexual relationships, money, alcohol/drugs/party lifestyle, warped body image, as portrayed in this video, AS WELL AS those things and people we consider to be 'good,' like our careers, our service to God through our or someone else's ministries, our families -- pushing us farther and farther away from Him, until Jesus becomes almost like a distant memory.  He tries to get our attention, but we no longer see Him.  We can no longer hear His voice.  

Because, much like the lost sheep that Jesus spoke of in the Book of Luke, we've wandered far away from our good and loving Shepherd, due to our rebellious nature or by responding to the enticing call of other things or people.  

And 'suddenly,'  we find ourselves in some deep, harrowing trouble and precarious situations.
The Rescue, by Nathan Greene
And also from the Book of Luke, like the prodigal son, we become so lost and hopeless, ensconced in our own ilk, blinded and consumed by our guilt, we begin thinking our Lord can't POSSIBLY still love us.  

Prodigal Son -- The Turning Point, by Stephanie Frostad
But unlike the prodigal son, we begin to falsely believe that He is so disappointed with us, that surely He has turned His back on us and abandoned and forsaken us. No WAY will He forgive us this time and we listen to the voice of the enemy gleefully (yet falsely) warning us that no, we CAN'T go home again.  We see nothing in our future but pain, suffering and darkness, and come to believe that the only way to end it is: death.

I have been there in my life.  And more than once.  Yes, I've believed the dark one's lies.  I've come to the end of my rope and each time, decided that it was better to hang myself with it than to believe that Jesus was still holding onto it -- and me -- and was desperately trying to pull me back to Him.

Perhaps you've been there, too, dear reader.  Or maybe, you're there right now. Your shaking hands are clutching onto that end piece of rope, wondering what to do next, wondering if it's even worth holding onto at all.  

Let me tell you with all honesty, sincerity, love and hope that YES, YES, YES, IT IS WORTH HOLDING ONTO!!!!  Hold on tight, and let the Lord Jesus Christ pull you to safety -- to Him!!! Let HIM break your chains, knock down and destroy your enemies, cleanse you of your sins, guilt and shame. Let Jesus rescue you!  Because you are EVERYTHING to Him!  

I'm forever grateful that Jesus's voice broke through my deafness, calling me back to Him. I'm forever grateful that the Light of His Presence broke through my darkness.  I'm forever grateful that when I've come to the end of my rope, instead of winding it around my neck, I clung tightly to it and allowed Him to pull me back to the safety of His welcoming arms.  I'm forever grateful for Christ's endless love, His boundless mercy and grace, and His relentless pursuit of His little wandering black sheep as He lovingly, tenderly reminds me, over and over, that He is and always will be, EVERYTHING to headstrong, prodigal me. 

The Good Shepherd, by Nathan Greene
Today, no matter how far you've wandered; no matter what you've done or become involved with; no matter how hopeless you or your situation may seem.....won't you believe that Jesus loves you SO MUCH, He will drop EVERYTHING to go searching for you?  That He will set aside EVERYTHING to come running and fight for your life? 

Today, won't you let Jesus be EVERYTHING to YOU?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Living In The Moment

Today, I did something that I haven't done for a very long time.  Or...come to think of it...maybe never at all. 

I lived in the moment.

I'm normally not a spontaneous person.  I like to know what I'm doing and when I'm going to do it.  To-do lists can be found in most every room of my house. Change up my schedule and you can be certain that I will freak out a bit.  Sometimes more than a bit. I could be considered someone who is anal-retentive, and not a person who thrives on living in the moment. 

I can also be overly concerned with how others see me and what they think of me.  I don't like to call attention to myself (although I did many years ago), preferring instead to remain just another face in the crowd. 

But today, I did things a little bit differently.

Today, in the middle of a sudden downpour, I responded to the urge to take off my shoes and socks and step out from my dry and protective little spot on my front porch right into the rain.  While I didn't dance in it, I did jump and splash in the puddles, kicking water as I happily waded through the small flash flood raging down my street.  I didn't care how I looked or who saw me acting like an overgrown 5 year old. 

It was different.
It was spontaneous.
It was fun!
It was freeing!

It was living in the moment.

Later in the evening, I went for a walk.  Most times, I walk to help maintain my health and body weight.  Sometimes, I walk to clear my head of all the gunk that is often swirling through it.  Tonight, it was to do both.  I'll often drive to a local park or to my daughter's high school track to walk, or I'll just walk through my neighborhood a few times.  Tonight, however, I strayed beyond the borders of my neighborhood, walking about a mile and a half from it.

As I was walking, I received a phone call from a lovely friend of mine; an older, wise and godly woman whom I've known for about twelve years now, and who, as of late, has become a mentor to me.  She didn't have an easy life for most of her years.  Yet, she is a joyful and thankful woman who loves, leans on, and walks and talks with God every day.  His love, grace, mercy, peace and compassion practically radiate from her, and she is as authentic a person and follower of Christ as the day is long. 

We had a wonderful conversation.  She asked me how I was doing, knowing I've been battling depression recently, and I told her that I was trying to look at various circumstances and people in my life from a different perspective -- a more thankful, grateful perspective.  She told me she was so happy to hear that and then mentioned this 'little book' (she always uses the word 'little' to describe things -- little book, little song, little prayer, little verse) someone had given her called ''One Thousand Gifts,' by Ann Voskamp, asking me if I'd ever heard of it or read it.  I laughed and told her that so many people I know have read it or are currently reading it, but I had yet to do so. She offered to let me borrow it, and went on to say that this was what the book was about:

living in the moment and

finding things to be grateful for in both the grace-filled and adversity-filled moments of life

She encouraged me to look around me as I continued on my walk tonight, to be on the look out for things to be grateful for that God might have waiting for me just around the bend, and to be ready to 'live in the moment.'  We ended our conversation with my promising her that I would try.

And I did.  

As I walked, I gave thanks for the sudden coolness today's rain had brought, and for the vivid colors of the flowers in all the yards I passed. 

I listened to and was thankful for the beautiful soundtrack of music that accompanied me, from the medley of tunes from a cheerful and rather loud mockingbird who seemed to follow me down one street, to the varied tones of several different wind chimes hanging from a neighbor's porch to the wind whispering through the tree leaves. 

I enjoyed and thanked God for a glorious display of light to which I was a privileged audience, as huge rays of the evening sun suddenly broke through some dark clouds, transforming the sky into a breathtaking heavenly and almost sacred scene.  All that was missing was a choir of angels belting out the Hallelujah Chorus (oh, but believe me, they were singing in my head)!

I had a huge smile on my face, and very briefly wondered if someone might decide to call the police as I realized I had stopped and was standing halfway up someone's driveway, staring up at the sky.  But oddly enough (odd for me), I didn't care.  

Because I was living in the moment.

Then, I passed by the elementary school that my son and daughter had attended and thought it would be nice to sit for just a few minutes on one of the benches in the playground.  But then, I looked a little further past the bench -- to the swings -- and thought, "Why sit when you can fly?"

And decided yet again to live in the moment.

The same overgrown 5 year old who splashed in rain puddles earlier in the day, now ran over to the playground equipment, hopped on one of the swings and swung up to the sky, putting my head all the way back, despite my vertigo, so I could continue seeing and enjoying God's light show.  Yes, my head spun for awhile, but it was SO worth it.  I laughed out loud as I saw a robin standing nearby, curiously studying me, no doubt wondering what this big person was doing on a kid's swing.   Then, I noticed a little boy and his dad over by the sliding board, staring at me, too, probably wondering the same thing. But it was okay. 

Because, once again:

It was different.

It was spontaneous.
It was fun!
It was freeing!

It was living in the moment.

How often in the course of our day do we go through the motions, always taking the same path, never deviating from the norm or jumping into the pool of spontaneity with all of our clothes on?  How often do we miss the sweet, funny, beautiful and tender blessings God delights to give us, if only we would choose to pull our eyes away from our iPads and iPhones and look around us?  When was the last time you laid down on the ground, not worrying about getting your clothes or your hair dirty or finding an ant or two (or three) crawling up your arm, to just watch and enjoy the clouds slowly moving by?  Perhaps picking out a few of them that resemble animals or people or even a heart.

What will tomorrow bring?  For me, I hope it's a day emptied of most of my To Do lists and instead, filled with more spontaneous opportunities to be thankful and grateful to the One Who has numbered all of my days and longs for me to enjoy each and every one of them.  Living in the moment.

What will tomorrow bring for you, dear one?  Will you choose to live in the moment?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- After All, by David Crowder Band

Let them praise Your great and awesome name -- Your name is holy! ~ Psalm 99:3, NLT

Oh, my friends -- indeed it is! Indeed He is!! There is just no way for us to ever wrap our brains around how this awesome, majestic, Creator God -- our Abba Father -- could love and care about and intentionally, consistently pursue a people so small, so flawed, so often ignorant and rebellious towards Him.  

But He does.  And all we can do in response to that perfect love is fall to our knees and sing out to Him:

'You are Holy.  Oh, Holy!'

I can't comprehend Your infinitely beautiful and perfect love;
Oh, I've dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars,
But they're never bright enough, after all.

You are Holy
Oh, Holy!
Holy, Holy, Holy!

I will sing a song for You, my God, with everything I have in me,
But it's never loud enough, after all.

You are Holy
Oh Holy!
Holy, Holy, Holy!

Heaven and earth are full, full of Your glory, glory,
My soul it overflows full of Your glory, Your glory;
Oh, blessed is He who reigns, full of Your glory, Your glory,
My cup, it can't contain all of Your glory, Your glory
Hosanna, we are found, after all, You are

Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

I can't comprehend
You're infinitely beautiful ~ lyrics by David Crowder Band

Prince of Peace, by Akiane Kramarik

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- All For You, by Mikeschair

I'd planned on posting here early this morning, but circumstances beyond my control hindered me from doing so.   As often happens (more than I care to admit), I had way too much going on before I ran out the door for church to be in a worshipful, let alone focused, state of mind, and I was trying hard to avoid being late (again), so I could at least be worshipful and focused when I walked sprinted into church. 

I had a completely different song all set to go here, too. Not that it wasn't a good one -- it is. Yet obviously, it's meant for another time. I woke up with today's song firmly implanted in my head.  And now I know why.   

Once I got to church, the unexpected happened. Without going into loads of details, we had a medical incident happen midway through the first service, involving one of our older saints, who is my neighbor and who catches a ride with us to church almost every Sunday.  It was, to say the least, disconcerting and a bit scary, but I was amazed at how many people stepped up to the plate immediately to assist and how lovingly, how tenderly and how well it was done.  Our young pastor handled it all with such calm, compassion, grace, mercy and love, calling everyone who was not assisting to just lift up their hands and cry out loud to the LORD on this person's behalf and encouraging all to worship and praise Him in the midst of the goings on.  Which they promptly did.  I've not seen anything like it, really.

I am thankful and grateful that nothing -- NOTHING -- takes our Father God by surprise.  He made sure that particular people with professional medical backgrounds were at church today, at this particular service time, and that they were easily and quickly accessible before the paramedics arrived to take over.  He surrounded this person with church members who had loving hearts, cool heads, a good understanding of and compassion for the elderly and strong arms to help and comfort.

It's several hours later and while I'm still a bit shaky from it all, mostly I'm in awe, once again, over how awesome and amazing God truly is, and just how worthy He is of our praise and worship. 

Some of the lyrics to this song are as follows:

'I stand amazed at Who You are,
I'm overcome by what You've done.'

'I'm here right now, I need You now
I lift Your Name above the doubt,
This is my offering for You.'

'I leave my burden at Your feet
In You I find my victory,
There is nothing You can't do.'

No, there certainly is NOTHING God can't do. 

Two things I would like to ask of all of you reading this post.  First, even though most or all of you may not know this elder saint (unless you're from my church and were at this particular service today), would you please take a moment to lift her up in prayer?  I'm still unsuccessful at getting in touch with any of her immediate family to let them know what transpired today and where she is.  Thankfully, some members of our church family went to the hospital  and are still there with her. 

And second, won't you join me in giving all worship and praise to our God? For it truly is ALL for Him.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Have you ever read a portion of Scripture over and over, become so familiar with it you can quote it in your sleep, BUT THEN -- read it again one day and become aware of something totally brand new in it?  I had that happen today with Isaiah 6:1-8 ~

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty; 
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. ”

 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

The Vision of Isaiah, by Luke Allsbrook
I noticed something today in this passage that I never noticed before.  God NEVER mentions WHERE He is looking to send this certain someone He's asking for.  He doesn't say, "Whom shall I send to the land or town of ..........?"  "And who will go for us?"

Ummm....go where?  And to whom? To do what? God is pretty much light on logistics here. 

Yet Isaiah is more than ready, willing and able -- eager, even!! -- to go wherever, to whomever and to do whatever it is God has in mind. Can't you just picture Isaiah jumping up, waving his hand and shouting, "Here am I. Send me!"?

How many of us can honestly say we would do that? If God were to speak today and merely say, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?", I wonder how many people would jump up out of their comfy lifestyle seats, frantically waving their hand like Arnold Horshack from 'Welcome Back Kotter' (hopefully SOMEONE out there remembers Horshack and this '70's sitcom) and yelling, "Ooh, ooh oooh! Here I am, God!  Send me!!!!!"  

No specifics, no details, no Google Maps satellite view of the lay of the land given.  Just a simple question, with a simple faith and trust in a loving Abba Father being the desired response by He Who created us for so much -- one of those things being for us to become the hands and feet, the eyes and ears and the heart of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Kind of a scary thing to imagine for some of us, yes? I think of the times over the years that I've heard stories from various folks, sharing how hesitant they were to say "Yes" to God in such an Isaiah-like way, frightened He would send them straight to Africa, or some other remote, forgotten and disease-ridden place on earth where even the staunchest of missionaries fear to tread. 

Truth be told -- I was one of those people. Fearful, distrustful, not very spontaneous and somewhat detail oriented.  In school or at a job, whenever a teacher or a boss would ask "who would like to volunteer for such-and-such?", I would avert my eyes and wish myself invisible, especially if (a) no logistics were initially offered, and/or (b) the volunteering would cause me to go somewhere, do something or interact with someone I found difficult or distasteful.  For years, I fluctuated between being like Moses, wrangling with God over my lengthy list of lame excuses, and acting like Jonah, speed boating it in the opposite direction of God and hiding below deck with eyes tightly shut.  Those of you who've been faithful readers of this little blog of mine might remember (or not) that I wrote a post with similar points back in December of last year called "The Struggle", where I described my grappling with being obedient to the Lord over something specific He was calling me to do at that time.  While I did finally say "yes" to His particular calling back then, I must admit it certainly wasn't with waving hands and joyful shouts, and my headstrong wrestling with Him over other things continued into the new year.

But all of that came to a screeching halt recently. Really, I can't even explain how it happened, except to give complete credit and glory to God, because over the past few months, I've been battling with some tough, very personal issues in my life.  And then to suddenly find myself being able to give God an Isaiah type response to His callings (notice the plural here) in the midst of it all is, well....kind of weird.  Kind of scary. SO...NOT...Me. 

But also, SO...Absolutely...Amazing.

Back in February, I was inspired to write this poem of sorts. As I was hand writing it into my journal, I remember thinking -- "What?? This isn't me, God.  I can't seriously and truthfully ever share this with anybody, because IT'S NOT WHO I AM!!! And You know it! Why would You have me write this, anyway?!"   I'm telling you, I must give God a real good chuckle (and no doubt, some big headaches, too) now and again with the things I say to Him. Because He knew all along that a time was coming soon when these words would be coming not just from my pen and my keyboard, but from my heart and my burning coal touched lips as well. To Him. 

And all I can say is this: When you surrender all to the Lord Jesus and allow Him total access to do whatever is necessary in your life; when you are ready, willing, able and --eager, even!! -- hold on tightly to Him, take a deep breath, and  be prepared for the ride of your life.  Is it easy?  No, not very. Get ready for twists and turns, ups and downs, and at times, you'll find yourself passing through tunnels where you can't see anything at all.  Like a roller coaster ride, it's exhilarating, breathtaking and frightening, all at once.

But don't be afraid.  God is right there with you -- along for the ride and the long haul.

Are you ready?


Whatever word You have for me -
I will speak it.

Whatever song You write for me -
I  will sing it.

Whatever story You dictate to me -
I will write it.

Whatever gift You offer to me -
I will share it.

Whatever trial You present to me -
I will accept it.

Whatever burden You lay on me -
I will bear it.

Whatever truth You speak to me -
I will believe it.

Whatever promise You make to me -
I will stand upon it.

Whatever plan You have for me -
I will live it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

By Faith


We read, hear, sing and talk a lot about it.  It is one of those things that is key to the Christian's daily walk.

I'm sure many of us could fill page after page about what it is to be a person of faith.  Lately, words have been hard to come by for me, for various reasons.  

Today, I'd like to share a quote, a picture and a song that I just love and to me, says it all:

"A person who lives in faith must proceed on incomplete evidence, trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse." ~ Philip Yancey

I Walk By Faith, by Judy Cooley

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name!
Bless the LORD,  O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, Who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ~ Psalm 103:1-5, ESV

I came across this quote from a Hebrew website and felt it appropriate and worth sharing here today. Meditate with me on this one for a bit, won't you?

"If you enjoy something in this world without saying a blessing, it is as if you stole it." 

How many reasons can YOU think of to bless and praise the LORD today?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- Show Me Your Glory, by Third Day

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with Me.’ If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways so I may know You and continue to find favor with You. Remember that this nation is Your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Then Moses said, “Now show me Your glory.” ~ Exodus 33:12-18

Are we, like Moses, so eager to know God and desirous to find favor with Him, that we are confident enough to say the same to Him?  Notice, Moses didn't shyly ask God: "Do You think You might be able to show me Your glory?"

No, it came as no question.  It was a request.  You might even say a demand.  'Now, show me Your glory."

Today, are you willing to present yourself to God and request the same from Him? And -- are you prepared to be transformed by Him?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Do It Anyway

Earlier today, I was sitting in my room, finishing up a book I've been reading by Christian author, vocalist and Women of Faith speaker, Sheila Walsh, called 'Living Fearlessly.'  In the last chapter, she highlights a poem of sorts that she says was written by Mother Teresa. 

The words sounded strangely familiar to me.  I used to own a book about the life of Mother Teresa, yet I don't ever remember seeing these words attributed to her.  

So I did a little research (yes, that's me -- forever a Nancy Drew wannabe) and learned that these words were found written on a wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, while others claim it was found written on the wall of her own room in that home.

Other information states that this was based on something called 'The Paradoxical Commandments,' which I've also read, by Dr. Kent Keith, but it seems as if the second part of this composition was re-written with more of a spiritual mindset. 

I can't say for sure where and from whom this originated. No matter -- the fact remains that this is a beautiful poetic masterpiece (to me, anyway).  Inspiring, encouraging, filled with truth. 

If you are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus -- serving as He served, living as He lived, loving as He loved -- but it just seems much too hard: Do it anyway.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

Oh, and I finally did recall just where I heard the words before:

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