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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,