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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coventry Carol (Dear Rachel...)

Matthew 2 recounts the heart-wrenching story of Herod's massacre of the baby boys in Bethlehem...Our King Jesus escaped by God's sovereign hand through an angel's warning in the night to his parents. Voices were heard throughout the land. Yes, crying voices were heard...countless mothers' voices weeping for the loss of their babes, and they could not be comforted from the excruciating pain of their souls.

Imagine the scene. Absolutely horrifying. Christmas is a time for cheer and beauty, wonder and miracles...but there is also a place and time for us to soberly reflect on the pain and the horror surrounding the Christmas story. The setting was not all peace- no, not at all. Yet, the Prince of Peace entered in, His healing light piercing the blood-stained darkness. His blood one day to be shed for us all so we can be rescued and made well.  A Savior was born- to save them all- to save us all from our sins, our slayings, our sufferings.

Read with me the passage in Matthew 2:13-18

"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.' When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I called My Son.'

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time when he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

'A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.'"

Killing of Innocents by Herod (oil painting by Leon Cogniet, 1824)

As I read this passage now, I am overcome with lament.  I think of mothers losing their children and the incredible suffering and pain their hearts endure.  I think of the horrifying news I woke up to this morning, finding out that 132 innocent children in Pakistan were shot to death by Taliban terrorists.  (Yes, these unspeakable atrocities still occur on a daily basis in our world today).  I think back to over 2000 years ago and imagine a whole region where every tiny boy was taken by the murderous hand of a king, and it is too much to bear.  It makes me think back to the days of Moses, when he was delivered by God's providence, to then deliver his people...yet all the boys surrounding him at the time of his birth were killed by Pharoah's decree.  Now the great Deliverer of all time had come, yet in His vulnerable infancy, He had to be delivered to Egypt so His life would be spared.  Then one day He would willingly go to the cross and lay His life down to pay for the souls so wrought with iniquity and for this world so wrought with evil. 

I read this passage and I want to sit with Rachel and hold her and just weep with her.  There have been Rachels throughout the ages who have felt this type of devastating, crippling loss...Any mother who has ever lost her son or daughter knows the depths of this pain.  The Rachels I want to reach out to today are those who have endured the loss of their children through the tragedy of abortion...55 million of these babes have been lost...who knows how many mothers that is.  Some have lost more than one child...maybe two or three or four to this overwhelming holocaust of infants.  These are women who have been lied to, who felt desperate, alone, and caught in a situation with seemingly no answers and no hope, so they did what they thought was their choice; but really they felt deep down they had no choice except to end it- to stop this little life from growing.  

These mothers have arms empty this Christmas and hearts aching...but so many ache silently, still alone and afraid to speak of the pain.  It is you, dear Rachels, to whom I want to reach out and love. It is for you and your children that our Deliverer has come.  His love for you is profound and as vast as the ocean wide, higher than the heavens.  Jesus is holding your precious babe this Christmas.  The King of Kings has welcomed the little ones into His Kingdom, and now, right now at this very moment, He wants to welcome you and your heart into His heart.  He wants you to know the mercy and life that He came to give. That is what Christmas is all about. He desires your healing and your wholeness. He knows your story and your fears and your shame and your longings better than you even know yourself.  Come to King Jesus and weep at His feet. He will lift you and carry you into a freedom greater than you ever knew possible.  Let this Christmas be the Christmas where you step into deliverance and the absolution of His love.

If you are one of those Rachels, please do this one thing if you do anything in the new year- go to a Rachel's Vineyard retreat.  I have had countless friends take this step to healing, and each one has had miracle experiences of meeting Jesus' love in a whole new way.  Do not delay your deliverance one more day...visit this website or call this number and walk into the welcome arms of your Heavenly Father who has compassion over you.  Your weeping will remain for a night, dear Rachel, but joy comes in the morning.  Your mourning can be comforted...your morning has come. 

We recorded the "Coventry Carol" in memorial of King Herod's tragic Massacre of the Innocents over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.  This English carol was part of a traditional English mystery play, "The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors," which was a reenactment of Matthew 2.  These mystery plays were pageant cycles where commoners would act out dramatic presentations of Biblical stories.  The "Coventry Carol" is a lullaby sung by Rachel, mourning for her baby.  It is not certain whether Robert Croo was the original songwriter, but his version was written in 1534.  The tune dates back to at least 1591.

"Coventry Carol"

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
By by, lully, lullay
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
By by, lully, lullay

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
By by, lully lullay

Herod, the king in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight,
All young children to slay

That woe is me, poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting, neither say nor sing

By by, lully lullay!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Surgery Postponed...A Call for Action & Prayer

I realize some of you didn't get a chance to see my recent Thanksgiving video announcement or my little facebook updates...  Yes, my surgery is postponed without a new date- sometime soon in the new year we hope. I thought I should write a full update before you all hit the heavens hard with surgery prayers tomorrow :)  Please continue to pray...but I'll do my best here to explain what is going on so you can pray more intentionally.  This will make it easier than personally trying to contact and update all of my dear friends and family (I wish I had time to tell you all individually).  I also ask for your help in this challenging situation- I'll share with you below a few simple ways you can help...

I received some shocking news recently that my surgery date would be postponed.  It was actually postponed twice.  This was due to hospital/medical politics and games that are quite appalling.  Unfortunately, there is a power struggle currently going on, and a number of people in the neurosurgical world are trying to keep my surgeon from performing the life-saving fully endoscopic skull base brain surgery that he has been doing for over 20 years with incredible success.  Have you heard of crab mentality?  Put a few crabs in a bucket. They're able to get out without much effort, but they instinctively grab one another and keep each other down, preventing any one crab from bettering him or herself.  The crabs don't want to see the success or freedom of other crabs.  It is a mentality that has short-term vision, focus on the self, and lacks any constructive long-term perspective that could benefit the entire group.  It's similar to the scenario of monkeys keeping each other down in a room.   Whenever one tries to climb a ladder to reach a banana, he or she gets sprayed with icy water.  One by one the monkeys are replaced in the room with new monkeys, but even so, they stop one another and grab each other, keeping any monkey from climbing the ladder. They don't even know why they do it after time, but it's what the monkeys have always done, so they just assume they shouldn't let any monkey climb up. It might possibly be scary or bad up there, so keep them down!

Well, unfortunately, this is pretty much what is going on in the community of neurosurgeons and hospitals. Blackballing is the word.  Or call it bullying if you like.  Dr. Shahinian has stepped outside of the medical box and performed a surgery unlike any other for the past two decades, but time and again others have tried to pull him back down off the ladder of medical innovation, and into the bucket of uniformity.  The crabs and monkeys are clawing for him, and sadly, the patients are the ones suffering. Remember in history when the normal practice was to drain ill patients' blood with leeches?  Or when surgeons didn't wash their hands?  Those who tried to change these widespread habits were ostracized, persecuted, and attacked for their "crazy" ideas.

Without good reason, one hospital recently breeched contract with Dr. Hrayr Shahinian's surgical team and another hospital backed out on contract right before signing (patients who flew in for surgery that week had to fly home, still suffering from their brain tumors/cancer...)  This has left patients literally all over the world waiting, like me, for this surgery.  We really have no where else to go- there are no other surgeons experienced and equipped in this fully endoscopic procedure.  Dr. Shahinian's credentials are amazing.  He is a pioneer in the medical world and has saved thousands of people's lives who have had brain tumors in the same location as mine.  Former patients of his have befriended me over the last several months, sharing with me their incredible stories of hope and healing.  They have inspired me to keep trusting God, knowing that it was providential I found this amazing doctor.  As it stands at the moment, we have no hospital.  Dr. Shahinian's team is working day and night to secure a new operating space for his ever-increasing list of patients.  Right now, we need a miracle this Christmas.  I am praying for Dr. Shahinian and his staff, and the countless other patients who are in need of this surgery.

Here's how you can help!  THANK YOU!!!!

3. SHARE both the Facebook PagePetition with your friends
5. WRITE a personal letter & MAIL it with the Consumer Demand for Investigation
6. CONTACT all media outlets you know of so they can share this story and make a plea for help.  We need to increase awareness about Dr. Shahinian's life-saving fully-endoscopic skull base surgery and demand for an investigation of those who are trying to stop him.

Thank you for your prayers and help!  I have complete peace, knowing God will make a way!  A dear friend reminded me this week of the story in God's Word in Exodus when the Israelites were freed from their slavery in Egypt, but then found themselves at the Red Sea. Pharaoh's army was pressing in behind them and they had nowhere to go, with only moments left waiting for their miracle.  They couldn't go back, they couldn't move forward.  "But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid. Just stand sill and watch the LORD rescue you today...The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.'" (Exodus 14:13-14)  As I stand between a rock and hard place, between this seemingly Red Sea and Pharaoh's army, I choose to stand still and watch the LORD make a way.  Isaiah 30:15 challenges us, "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength...'"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's In a Song?..."Of the Father's Love Begotten"

It is fascinating how we sing songs and know the tunes by heart, yet often have no concept of where they originated or the great lives and stories behind them.  The church is filled with beautiful hymns, and I believe we miss out on an incredible aspect of the Christian faith when we don't know the history behind the tunes or the souls who were sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to write such profound confessions.  One of the oldest hymns we sing today is often popular around Christmastime. "Of The Father's Love Begotten" found its origin in the early 5th Century A.D. Let me tell you about the poet behind this powerful hymn.

Born into a wealthy Spanish family in the year 348 A.D, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens grew up as a man loyal to Rome, and became a lawyer.  Later he was an influential judge, and then rose in rank to become a governor and court official for the Christian Roman Emperor, Theodosius. Christian belief permeated the Roman Empire by this time, because of Emperor Constantine's conversion in 312 A.D., and the 313 A.D. Edict of Milan, which decreed full tolerance of Christianity. Prudentius believed Rome to be an "instrument in the hands of Providence for the advancement of Christianity." Quite a shift from the horrors of previous Roman leaders crucifying Christians and sending them to the Colosseum to be ravaged by animals!

Yet, still there were pagan ideas and heretical streams seeping into the church.  Many were compromising on the tenants of true faith for their own personal or political gain.  This was the era of men such as St. Augustine of Hippo and his contemporaries- bold voices of faith who will forever be relevant and studied in the church.

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, at 57-years-old, left his political prowess to turn toward meditation, prayer, and poetry.  He began also writing hymns for daily monastic offices/hours.  Some may call this sudden career change today a midlife crisis, but for him, it was more of an end-of-life change, where he began to use his power and voice to influence the world on a spiritual level rather than a political one. Prudentius reflected on his sudden career change and his new intentionality toward things of the Spirit, "At the very end of life, may my sinful soul now put off her folly, and if not by deeds, at least by words give praise to God, join day to day by constant hymns, and never fail to celebrate the Lord each night in songs."  Writing many poems during the last decade or so of his life, little did Prudentius expect one would turn into such a well-preserved hymn and be sung over 1500 years later in churches all around the world. 

With his successful legal background, Prudentius had the wherewithal to use argument and fact in his poetry, to portray not just beautiful feelings, but rather a proclamation of truth so that Christians could believe and understand the Trinity. Prudentius was a man who wrote to combat the heretical voices of his day, and intentionally penned very poignant poems that promulgated sound orthodox Christian theology. One of the leading heresies of the day was taught by Arius in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.  There was a widespread false teaching that Jesus, though divine, was created by God and not equal to the Father.  We know clearly, if we believe Scripture to be truth, that Jesus was in fact One with God the Father, and has existed throughout all eternity.

This great mystery and wonderful reality of the Christmas story we find written of in Colossians 1:15-20:

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."

John 1:1-5 also expresses this profound truth of the divinity and eternal existence of Christ Jesus, one with God the Father and Holy Spirit, Creator of the Universe:

"In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.  And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]."

Prudentius stood unashamedly upon the Word of God and wrote in his hymn of redemption only through the eternal Christ the Son.  He referred to creation and the fall, the virgin birth, Christ's fulfillment of prophecies, and the victorious reign of the Trinity.  He affirmed that Jesus was "begotten" and not created.  His poem points to Christ as both God and King, and stomps out Arian heresy.

Prudentius , who died around 413 A.D., is revered today by hymnologist and scholars as "the first great poet of the Latin church" (Fred Gaely), and "the earliest Christian writer who was a real poet" (Albert Bailey). "Corde Natus Ex Parentis" was the Latin title for his poem which we know today as "Of the Father's Love Begotten."  John Mason Neale and Henry Baker translated it into English in 1851 and 1861.  It was set to the plainsong chant, Divinium Mysterium, written sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.  Below are the original nine verses.  We recorded four of them for #25CarolsofChristmas.  Be blessed by this recording and the reading of this powerful hymn!

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd;
He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
Doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed,
Righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!


Be Still My Soul: The Inspiring Stories behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns by Randy Petersen

"History of Hymns: 'Of the Father's Love Begotten'" article by Dr. C Michael Hawn. Discipleship Ministries- The United Methodist Church,

"Of the Father's Love Begotten" article by Kevin DeYoung. The Gospel Coalition,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks!

My heart is flooded with thanks this year as the Christmas holiday is right around the corner and Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Quite possibly more than any other year, I am filled with deep and true, heart-felt thanksgiving.  For I have seen the Hand of God move through His people in the most beautiful ways over the past few months, and I have seen the light of the promise of Genesis 50:20 in such great reality.  So many of you have played a part in my miracle story that is still unfolding, and I am daily seeing the miracles of God on display in others' lives. Maybe I'm just more in tune now that I am in the middle of my own "trial"...  I pray that my thoughts do not drift from that awareness of seeing Jesus marvelously and intimately at work in our every day lives.

I challenge you, in the midst of whatever affliction or adversity you face, to KEEP PRAISING GOD AND GIVING THANKS, and declare this in the face of the Enemy (yes, the very real Enemy of our souls),

"You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for GOOD- so that it would come about as it is today, with many people's lives being saved."

That is what Joseph told his brothers after they sold Him into slavery, and years later found him as second in command of all Egypt- the head honcho leader who was saving thousands of lives from famine.

That's the promise for us, when Satan attempts to steal, kill, or destroy our lives, JESUS comes to rescue us over and over to give us LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL!  (John 10:10)

God is about the daily, moment-by-moment business of saving lives, saving souls, and bringing restoration to our hearts, minds, and bodies.  He cares so deeply and intimately about the details of our lives.

I picked up a book recently that I'm eager to dive into, written by Eric Metaxas.  Here's a quote from Miracles that stopped me in my tracks:

"If God could speak the universe into existence, could He not afterward speak into that existence?"

Just listen. The Holy Spirit is speaking to your soul today, and His message for you is one full of life, beauty, restoration, and promise.  He is calling you by name.  When you cry, He is there crying with you. The compassion and mercy of the Father never ceases.  When you rejoice, He is right there taking joy in you, His beloved child.  He is actively working right now in your life.  He wants you to know Him and to allow yourself to be molded by His love and extraordinary purpose.  Maybe the key to unlocking your vision of His presence is to start with a simple prayer of thanks.

That's it- a simple prayer of thanks.  Just a humble offering of gratitude and acknowledgment to the One who has given you everything.  For "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

I challenge you and I challenge myself today, as Paul challenged the Thessalonian church (5:16-18):

"Be joyful always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances.
This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus."

Do not stare at the immediate today, and do not even stare into the future and all it's unknowns. Stare at the glorious faithfulness of God!  Gaze into the love of the Father who is everlasting and who always carries you through!  And meanwhile, give thanks. Give thanks for the big things and every little thing. Don't miss any single opportunity to give thanks.

We train children to say "thank you" and we are delighted when they do so.  How much more is our Heavenly Father delighted when we offer up a simple, "Thanks!" to Him?  And how great is the Enemy's defeat and our triumph when we are not overcome by adversity, but rather we overcome with abundant thanksgiving in every single circumstance?

Here is a Psalm to meditate on before the rush of the travels and turkey and stuffing and football.

"I thank you, LORD, with all my heart;
I sing praise to You...because of Your constant love and faithfulness,
because You have shown that Your Name and Your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to You; with Your strength You strengthened me...
Even though You are so high above, You care for the lowly,
and the proud cannot hide from You.
When I am surrounded by troubles, You keep me safe.
You oppose my angry enemies and save me by Your power.
You will do everything You have promised;
LORD, Your love is eternal. Complete the work that You have begun."
(Psalm 138)


P.S. Here's a little Thanksgiving Video Message!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shake The Dust Off!

We hear it all the time..."Just shake it off!"  But what does this really mean and from where did this little colloquialism come?  Well I heard it with new insight and context recently as my Bible study group was reading Acts chapter 13.  Verses 51-52 read:

"But [the apostles] shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled [throughout their souls] with joy and the Holy Spirit." 

These apostles were mere men, yet full of power from God as they shared the Good News to the ends of the earth. They were speaking boldly of the hope found in Jesus and proclaiming the Word of God to people of all ages and backgrounds. In the midst of this, they were facing severe persecution and ongoing threats.  This was no game for them- this was a daily choice to risk their lives so that others might receive grace and truth. As they were driven out of the region, their response was one of surprise and bravery, strength and grace.  They shook the dust off their feet and walked on. They were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. The lesson in a way is so ordinary and simple, we could easily read on and miss it.  But please, don't miss it. If you catch this, your victory is assured.

Shake the dust off your feet.
Walk on with joy.
Be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The battle is not yours, but the Lord's.

Wait. What about that last line there?  The battle is the Lord's?

Yes. It is.  Why are you fighting, dear friend, when it's not yours to fight?  Your duty is to keep walking on, and shake it off!  The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

We head back to the Old Testament to 2 Chronicles 20:12-18 and read a passage that is just mind blowing- a story about God's chosen people facing a vast enemy much too great for them to ever defeat...stick with me for a moment and travel back to the ancient land of Judah.

"'O our God, will You not judge them?  For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.' Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD.  Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon the midst of the assembly. And he said, 'Listen all of you of Judah...Thus says the LORD to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up...and you will find them at the end of the brook...You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.' Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshipping the Lord..."

What happened next?  They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness. They believed.  God established and prospered His people. Those who could sing, sang praises to the Lord for the beauty of His holiness and His great enduring mercy.  Meanwhile, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies, and their foes were completely destroyed.

So what's the secret to letting God fight and win whatever battle we face?  As we're shaking the dust off our feet, worship is such a key element to victory.  If we focus on God and sing His praise instead of wasting time talking over and over about the trial, the foe, the danger, or the dread...we are filled more and more with the secret weapon of joy in the Holy Spirit.  He is the One who takes care of us and leads us on into victory after victory, promise after promise.

Want one more secret?  I believe joy and enthusiasm are tightly knit cousins.  How do we live enthusiastically in the face of daily challenges and hardships, enemies and change?  The Greek root of this word, enthusiasm, is "En Theos"- to be "in God" or "inspired by God".  Let's look to Jesus for our inspiration, to the Father for our strength, and to the Holy Spirit to fill us with life.  When we are fully present with His presence alive in us, we have enthusiasm that no foe can match. Our joy becomes invincible and our spirits become so alive and filled to overflowing abundance (John 10:10).

I read this little quote the other day, "Rise up and attack the day with enthusiasm!"

Let's do just that- embrace whatever is ahead with matchless joy and unrivaled enthusiasm.

May we also today...


Friday, October 31, 2014

Gatsby. Solomon. You & I.

Recently I had the chance to sit down with two friends and watch a film made after one of my all-time favorite novels, The Great Gatsby.  Complete with popcorn, pumpkin squares, and tea, we had a wonderful girls' night, soaking in the story.  Afterward, I asked myself, "What makes this story so captivating, so compelling? Why does its eccentricity and extravagance resonate with the average human heart and those living ordinary lives?"  It struck me then that Gatsby was a modern day Solomon.  He had it all- the riches, the fame, the women, and the ornate, pompous lifestyle.  He had the 1920's New York version of a chariot as he sped along past the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in his creamy yellow car.  He had status and wit and connections and flair.  He was an insider, he was unstoppable, he was almost untouchable.

And then it all came crashing around him.  His great kingdom was spiraling out of control, and his dreams, one by one, were shattered as his glass house was broken.  As one of the characters, Wilson, frantically told his wife right before her death, "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me but you can't fool God!...God sees everything."  This message was for Gatsby as well. Their lives were on the course of destruction amid their rising decadence.

Travel back to the tenth century before Christ, and meet a man who was no stranger to this type of tragic tale.  Solomon was a king of splendor. He had it all. He had wives and concubines by the hundreds.  He had gold and silver and rubies and jewels from far-off places. He had a palace that would make the kings and presidents today drool. He even had wisdom and understanding beyond fathom...but it was just that- the wisdom- which haunted him, knowing so well in the end that his chasing after all the fame and fortune this world had to offer was only a chasing after the wind.  It could not be held, nor could it be grasped. And still today it is a vapor, which comes and goes.  It flies away and the soul is dissatisfied to the greatest degree.

"Vanity of vanities...all is vanity. 
What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?  
One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. 
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. 
The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; 
The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. 
All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; 
To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. 
All things are full of labor; man cannot express it.  
The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 
That which has been is what will be, 
that which is done is what will be done, 
And there is nothing new under the sun..."  
King Solomon
Ecclesiastes Chapter 1

While you and I may not have the riches and glory of King Solomon, and we may not be the Great Gatsby in West Egg, NY or his desperate lover, Daisy, in East Egg, NY...we are human beings, toiling in the flesh day after day.  Working and wrestling for meaning.  Searching for soul satisfaction.  Clamoring for recognition, rising worth, and some reality that will give purpose to the day.  I find myself so often caught in the cycle of it all- giving more time and energy into the temporary things instead of the eternal.

Recently I've had moments of pause.  Moments where I've stepped back and seen more of the landscape view of life instead of the microscopic, up-close, day to day rush and pressure of it all. Over the last four months...finding out about my medical situation, having to make decisions, and facing the uncertainty of tomorrow (which we all face, but frequently ignore since ignorance is a state of temporary bliss), I've come to a place of examining what matters in this life...and what does not.  I've come to realize more than ever that the the well-knowns and the great success stories and the household names are not always the satisfied and soul-nourished.  Often, they are the ones suffering.  It's often the unsung, no-named heroes who have hearts filled with rich peace - the obscure and anonymous lives who chase not after the honor of this world, but rather have their eyes fixed on the unseen things above (Colossians 3:2),

Here's an echoing challenge from King Solomon- for you and for me both.

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, 
Before the difficult days come, 
And the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them': 
While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, 
And the clouds do not return after the rain; 
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down...
And those that look through the windows grow dim...
And all the daughters of music are brought low...
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home. 
And the mourners go about the streets. 
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, 
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. 
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, 
And the spirit will return to God who gave it...
All is vanity...
Fear God and keep His commandments, 
For this is man's all."
Ecclesiastes 12

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cowgirl, Jeans & Fishes

It was a magical night with lights and costumes and music downtown in the capital of my small home-state Delaware.  I sang some songs and children danced under the October moonlight.  It was a spirit of whimsy, made of the same stuff as fairy-tales. After singing, I was over at my CD table meeting all the little girls aglow.  I'll call her "Cowgirl"- she caught my eye and I recognized her from the time I sang at her church.  She was dressed in her boots, vest, and big western hat, looking so innocent...but underneath that little smile was something so much greater and more profound than any passerby could imagine. There she stood patiently, not yet seven years old, but with a soul exhibiting perhaps more faith than mine at 27. She waited for the other sweet girls to get pictures and talk. When it was her turn, she told me quite matter-of-factly with her endearing little grin, "Caitlin Jane, I pray for you every night, twice a night. Once before dinner and once before bed." That's all I needed to melt my heart.  Yes, that's all I needed to call to mind reminders of God's promises and therefore have hope (Lamentations 3:21-22).  Cowgirl gave me more than one hug, and I carry those hugs with me even now...

It was the day right before I met Cowgirl that I was gifted with an unexpected blessing from the elementary/high school where I graduated, Wilmington Christian. They had a jeans and t-shirt day fundraiser for #CaitlinJaneBrain where the students could pay $2 to wear jeans and t-shirts instead of their uniforms. What child or teen doesn't want to dress down for a day?   I remember planning these very same fundraisers for other causes when I was in school...but how incredibly humbling and beautiful to be the recipient of such love and grace now during my time of need!  This beyond-kindness was extraordinary to me, for it has been almost a decade since I graduated from there.  My niece, "Little C," is in kindergarten there now and came home the day before the fundraiser announcing to her family, "Everyone is bringing in $1 for jeans and $1 for a t-shirt tomorrow to help Cait's head!" In response, her 3-year-old brother, never without a twinkle in his eye, responded, "No they aren't! Cait's head is just fine!" (All right, I'll give him head does look perfectly normal these's funny how even adults try to "see" the brain tumor when they look at me, and they say in shock, "Um, well, you look great! I can't even tell!")  Little C's compassionate heart is always beating boldly, challenging my heart to take greater leaps of faith and to see the world through Jesus' eyes. When she got dressed for school on jeans/t-shirt day, she was eager to put her personal $2 into her backpack to help her Auntie...Yes, my 5-year-old niece was so willing to sacrifice her worldly riches to help my brain surgery.  This is the same girl who cried at 3-years-old, desperate to sponsor another little girl in Indonesia who lives in poverty (and Little C is now "planning" her someday trip to visit her sponsor girl "by boat or train"!)

The faith of Little C is the same faith exhibited in Cowgirl. They've found it- they've found the treasure of the Kingdom and they grasp it in a way that so many of us adults sadly have let go...I often lose my grasp and have to amble along to find it again- find the Lord's hand reaching out to grab my hand and carry me to the Kingdom treasure that is right here and right now, the treasure of holding onto Jesus (Matthew 13:44).  How is it that I often have to learn the greatest lessons by looking to the littlest ones?  It's the beautiful paradox of the Kingdom of God that astound us...and His call to become like children is no less astounding than the rest of Jesus' teachings.  When I look at Cowgirl, I am reminded of the power of prayer. She lives out James 5:15-16.  She offers prayer in faith to make the sick well. If "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective," how much more powerful is the prayer of a child?  When I look at Little C, I am reminded of the power of giving, even when it is only a widow's two very small copper coins...or a young child's simple two dollars (Mark 12:38-44).  It may be insignificant in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, it is vastly extravagant and carries eternal weight.  For our Mighty God, Creator & Provider, can take even our smallest offering from the heart and multiply it in ways we cannot imagine.  This is the God who took just five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand and left his disciples with twelve baskets of delicious leftovers! (Matthew 14:13-21)

How do we step into the Kingdom- Jesus' Kingdom-come and will be done?  I believe one of the greatest secrets we can unlock of the Kingdom is found in Matthew 18:1-4: "About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'  Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.  Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.'"

I want to learn from Cowgirl and Little C, and step into the Kingdom treasures for which my heart was made to find this week.  

Dear Lord, help me learn to pray.
Dear Lord, help me learn to give.
Dear Lord, help me learn to believe.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thankful Beyond Words...

I sit here to type and my mind and heart cannot find the adequate words.  I’m truly stunned and in awe of God’s blessing that has poured out through each one of you.  The great storehouses of my Heavenly Father have rained upon me, and I am so deeply moved by the generous hearts that have given.  Dear friends, dear family, and other dear people whom I may not ever even know…I see so clearly that the Lord is providing my every need going into this surgery, but it is only through your extravagant generosity and sacrificial hearts.  I hope to be able to thank each one of you personally…but I realize some of you I won’t have that opportunity, so I hope you read this and know from the bottom of my heart to yours, I receive the grace you’ve bestowed upon me and I simply say these two simple words…

Thank You.

You have given me courage and joy through your words.
You have provided for so many of my medical/travel expenses through your giving.

I will continue to post updates here on my blog as well as my YouCaring page.  Having you all join with me on this journey is the greatest blessing and honor!!!

I leave you with this verse that has been so dear to my heart this past year, and following that, a few lines from a hymn written by Ernest Shurtleff in the late 1800s.  Let your heart be awakened to God’s love today and be steadfast and fixed in the light of His glory.

Psalm 57:7-11
“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.”

Lead on, O King eternal, we follow not with fears,For gladness breaks like morning wherever Your face appears.Your cross is lifted over us, we journey in its light;The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Unexpected, Extravagant GRACE

How do I put into words the feelings that swell my soul this week?  The unexpected blessings that have poured in from strangers and friends alike...The words of extravagant kindness, the encouraging reminders of God's promises, the deep generosity and sacrificial support from so many of you...I am simply stunned. Overwhelmed. Deluged by a flood of grace.  I don't deserve any of it, and I am once again reminded that grace is never deserved, but a gift that we can only accept.  All of you have been such a perfect picture of God's grace to me, and I receive it with tears, joy, and the deepest desire to carry that grace forward and share it with those whom God puts along my path during the days to come.

Last night was such a tangible expression of that grace. A picture in person of how too many of you to count have shown acts of incredible giving and goodness behind the scenes.  A beautiful snapshot of joy and glory.  My friend E held a prayer gathering in her lovely home- a little reception with her family and friends just to bless me, pray over me, and encourage me by their presence before heading out to California for surgery on December 10.  E's vivacious, charismatic personality and genuine care brought a group of people together- many of whom I had never met- yet felt last night like I've known forever because of the love which they showered upon me.  A group of mostly strangers spent their hours on a Friday night to come out and just bless a girl with words of cheer, delicious food, conversation and laughter.  Dozens of people this past week have written, donated, and given deeply of themselves so that I can walk this journey not alone, but alongside the gracious souls of brothers and sisters literally from all over.  Each of you have lived out Galatians 6:2 in a way that I will never forget as long as I live.  All of this is pure grace.  "Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens..." the verse proclaims.  I just pray that I can live out the grace that has been given to me by God through you.

I want to leave with you 2 Corinthians 9:14-15 that speaks better what my soul feels than my own words can say...

"And they yearn for you while they pray for you, because of the surpassing measure of God's grace (His favor and mercy and spiritual blessing which is shown forth) in you. Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling [His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift]."

E's house...yes I am holding a frog she gave me ;)

"Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; 
first a dawning; then a light; 
and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness."
 - Thomas Adams

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Last night I went for a run in the rain.  It was a warm autumn evening and the golden leaves paved the road as I imagine the streets of Heaven are paved.  The rain fell gently, and then it picked up.  Drop after drop, down from the gray, shadowy, dim-lit sky, hitting my face and refreshing my soul.  It felt like one million raindrops, and I thought to myself, "These raindrops are teardrops from heaven, tears of gratefulness...the tears my soul wants to cry but has not the strength to yield."  I wish I could number the raindrops. I wish I could cry one thousand times one thousand and show the gratitude of the depths of my soul for all of the gifts, for all of the prayers, for all of the goodness that I do not deserve, but have received over the past few days...It was a beautiful night. A night with a shadow hovering over and rain pouring, but all the while a beautiful night.

This morning I woke at the ridiculous hour of 4 am, but all for a good reason.  I had the incredible opportunity to sing in my home state at Delaware's Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast.  It was truly a special event. 
It was one of those mornings where the Lord just seemed to be so present, so near.  My pastor was there. Friends I hadn't seen in a long time.  Business folks and professionals from all over our small-wonder state.  A bright and bustling atmosphere...but with it's own shadows hovering.  I talked with a friend whose precious adopted baby girl is going in for major heart surgery in November.  I sat by another friend who just recently lost their 5 month old baby boy.  Shadows linger...they hover as we try to move on and out into the light.  We feel alone and caught and afraid, in the cold, in the dark.  Where is God?  When will the light break through?

My heart asks, "Could the shadow actually be the very thing revealing His grace, His protection, His love?  What appears to be haunting us as darkness...could it just be the shade from God's expansive, hovering wing?"

    His Voice Answers...

Psalm 91:1  "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]."

    And our hearts cry out...

Psalm 57:1 "Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed."

Psalm 63:7 "For you have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy."

We are given a glimpse into the mysterious promise of the shadow.  The shadow of God's great, compassionate, protective wing.  It is under His mighty hand that we rest and we are safe.  Two autumns ago, I wrote the above song, "Shadow," and singing it this morning, the lyrics feel more true and relevant than ever.  When I wrote it, I was sitting at our family piano, in the middle of storm Sandy, which devastated so many parts of the east coast.  On that gray, dark day I gazed up at this frame...

It reads a promise from Deuteronomy 33:12  "...The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long..."

The story behind this antique framed verse is jaw-dropping.  Let me tell you the background... My Great-Great Aunt Ruth was a missionary in China for 50 years.  She devoted her whole being to Christ and she passionately carried the Gospel to the Chinese people over the greater span of her life.  She founded China Bible Seminary in Shanghai, and I can only imagine the countless Chinese who know Jesus today because she was such a brave, bold woman who gave and served without hesitation.  I never met her, but my Grannie told me story after story about China and amazing Aunt Ruth.  Just to give you a glimpse, Ruth Brittain was imprisoned twice- once by the Japanese when they invaded Shanghai, and then later by the Communists.

One time she had to flee her house as the Japanese were shooting up the missionaries' homes.  She left all of her belongings and escaped for her life.  This framed verse was hanging in her home at the time.  It was left with everything else to be ransacked by the soldiers.  They shot through the rooms of the home, and wouldn't you know, a bullet was lodged in this wall-hanging.  Do you see it in the upper left corner?  I'm not sure of all the detailed events that followed this dramatic siege, but I do know the story about this framed picture...Ruth's friend recognized it at a shop some time later, bought it, and returned it to her!

This story about Aunt Ruth still amazes me today.  The verse from Deuteronomy. The meaning of the Word in that picture. The bullet. The Lord protecting His beloved.  It pierces me with its promise, so much so, that the words found their way into the lyrics of my song, "Shadow" when I wrote it two years ago.  Every time I sing that song, I think of brave Aunt Ruth who lived her whole life under the shadow of God's mighty wing.  I want to live like that.  I want to never leave the shadow-place in search for the easier, sunnier road, because I want, I long for, my Lord's protection.  Here is a picture of Aunt Ruth.  Can you see it in her eyes?  Her confidence and shelter were found in none but Christ.

May your heart today find comfort and strength under the shadow of God's mighty wing. Even during the grayest day and the darkest night, may you find yourself taking refuge in Him, for you are beloved in the Lord's eyes and you are safe under His loving Hand.

by Caitlin Jane

Hide me in the shadow of Your wing
And I will sing of Your Mercy
Let the rain fall, clouds fill the atmosphere,
And I will hide under Your hand, Your hand.

Rock, Refuge, I look to only You
And I take flight
Clinging to Your heart, the good, the love,
I know that I’ll be fine

You don’t even need to speak to me
Your silent grace is my fortress
Webs and thorns surround this tower now
Yet I will gaze into the distance, the distance

Rock, Refuge, I look to only You
And I take flight
Clinging to Your heart, the good, the love,
I know that I’ll be fine

The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him
And the Lord will cover me all the day long
When the mighty waters rise, they will not threaten my life
Awake the dawn, and sing a newborn song

Even when the shadows fall, my heart will not fear
And when the peril comes, I trust you are near
When my bones they break, my eyes go blind, 
the tempests rage, it’s for me You fight
Your hope, Your hand will not let down, 
let go, let up, I catch sight again, 
I catch sight again

Take courage now, be strong and wait, oh my soul
For my Rock is eternal
I will not be shaken, I will be still
For the Almighty is my shelter, my shelter

Rock, Refuge, I look to only You
And I take flight
Clinging to Your heart, the good, the love,
I know that I’ll be fine,  Yes I know that I’ll be fine

Hide me in the shadow of Your wing
And I will sing of Your Mercy