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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The LORD is my SONG!


A few weeks ago, a friend at church, Lauren, was telling me how the idea of the Lord being our Song really moves her spirit deeply- an idea that is difficult to even grasp, yet so beautiful.  I'm ashamed to say, that was the first time the concept really had captured my attention- how could I have passed by this incredible truth, poetically pictured in Scripture?  The interesting thing to me, is that every time it is written in God's Word that the Lord is our Song, it is also written that He is our Strength and Salvation.  Take a moment and fix your attention on these verses from the Old Testament, and let your mind and heart be unlocked to this unique and breathtaking image of our Mighty Lord being our song.


"'Behold, God, my salvation!
I will trust and not be afraid,
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song;
Yes, He has become my salvation.'
Therefore with joy you will draw water
from the springs of salvation.'"
Isaiah 12:2-3

"The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
'The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.'"
Psalm 118:14-15

"The LORD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise Him,
my father's God, and I will exalt Him."
Exodus 15:2


Another friend, Joan, went home to be with Jesus recently.  She gave me the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young a couple years ago.  It is a devotional written as if from the perspective of Jesus speaking to one of His followers.  This is an excerpt from one page:  "Trust Me and don't be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song.  Think what it means to have Me as your Strength.  I spoke the universe into existence; My Power is absolutely unlimited!  Human weakness, consecrated to Me, is like a magnet, drawing My Power into your neediness....Remember that I am also your Song.  I want you to share My Joy, living in conscious awareness of My Presence.  Rejoice as we journey together toward heaven; join Me in singing My Song."

Not only are strength and salvation bound up with the image of our Lord being our song, but joy and praise are also both inextricably interwoven into this truth.  When God becomes the song of our life, we find strength and salvation in Him.  When we praise the Lord in song, joy naturally fills our soul.  The joy of the Lord is our constant strength if we abide in Him, and we cannot help but burst into song when our hearts are overflowing abundantly with such joy!

I love and cherish the timeless hymns of the Christian faith. I've so enjoyed adding some of my favorite hymns to the set list of songs at my recent concerts.  The Hymn, "Be Still My Soul", was an anchor to my soul last year when I faced brain surgery, as well as during my recovery and during Jamie's cancer treatment.  The celtic hymn ,"Be Thou My Vision", was the song we chose for our wedding day, led by my Father-in-law's rich, booming voice.  There are a few hymns that my mom always says to me with nostalgia, "Your great-grandmother used to play this on the piano!"  "Of the Father's Love Begotten" was a hymn dating back to the 4th Century A.D. which defended Christian truth against heretical teachings.  These hymns have lasted the test of time, drawing from the deep wells of Scriptural truth as well as the experiences of saints through the centuries.  The worship songs coming forth from songwriters today are being released in an exponential way, song after song after song, limitless in praise to our Mighty God!  Could there be one song, a chord tying them all together in timeless fashion?  Randy Peterson, author of Be Still My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns, seems to express such an idea:

"So as we worship, we are entering an ongoing song, composed long before our time and continuing into eternity...The music itself lifts us and calms us, drives us and stretches us...There's a language here beyond words, but it also works with words.  Together these tunes and texts lead us to worship even when we don't know how."

Have you caught the tune?  Has His song captured your heart and become your strength and saving grace?  Has His joy turned your heart to praise?

In Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists, he quotes this succinct and stunning statement by Paulinus of Nola:  "Our only art is faith and our music Christ."  The depth beyond these words lies in eternity.  Our Creator God made us to bear His glorious image, and designed us to take part in His work by creating new art and new songs.  Each one of these songs, though, is meant to be a reflection of His Song, His masterpiece of art, and His gift of salvation.  I encourage you to read this letter by Pope John Paul, as well as to dig into the perennial hymns of the faith.  May your soul be refreshed and your heart be singing the Song of our Lord!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hope Springs Forth

It's that time of year again...(at least in the parts of our country that have four seasons) where the sun is sneaking out and blossoms are bursting forth and muddy trails have the brightest green coming up from the ground!  One of my favorite questions that I always receive from my sponsor children is, "What season is it there for you?" and they go on to tell about the rainy season and dry season and how so much of their lives, as well as their crops, depend on the weather.  It is amazing...we don't realize how many around the world truly have to trust God with the weather every day, to know if they will make a living or even have food on the table.  I tend to take for granted the weather, the seasons' changing, and the food on my table!  The part about the letters that makes me always laugh a little bit, is that often it takes a few months to receive their letters...and then a few months for them to receive mine.  Let's say my sponsor girl, Namata, writes to me at Christmas from Uganda...and I receive it in February and write back...and then she receives her letter in April.  There is much confusion about the seasons and when it is winter, spring, summer, and fall here!  And then there is the way we date our letters.  I would date mine 3/10/16 to signify March 10th, 2016.  Well, for many people in other countries, including Namata in Uganda, the date 3/10/16 would signify October 3rd, 2016!  I had to figure that out a few years ago when the seasons and the dates were really baffling me in our letter exchanges!  All this to say, writing letters back and forth with my sponsor children has been a joy...ever since I first sponsored Mercy in 4th grade!  I wish I could go back and see what I wrote to this dear sister-like pen-pal across the ocean in Ghana then.  We had a special relationship that launched a passion deep inside me for this sponsor-a-child thing...and led me to meet my children/students in the Dominican Republic, Uganda, and The Philippines!  (It's hard to always call them children, when some of them have been my peers or just a few years younger!)


Speaking of season, I wish my sponsor children could step into a real North Eastern United States springtime!  It is so lavish with life.  The great outdoors teeming with warmth and color, and gracing it all, there's a breeze that refreshes the soul.  Jamie and I took a walk on one of our favorite trails recently...and I felt the signs of spring all around me- signs of hope that warmth would return and bright days would be ahead.  Last year, in a way, we felt like we missed out on spring, due to my recovery and Jamie's bout with cancer.  We spent most of our time convalescing inside...but those days when we could get out and take walks (both of us hobbling around- we were quite a sight to behold!), the fresh air revived our souls like never before.  It was really our one highlight if we could get out and take a walk.  There is something about God's creation that is so healing, so filled with hope, especially when it is the spring season which births incredible life again!


This spring, my spirit stirs within me, with an expectancy of all that is renewed and all that is born again.  With my window open, I hear birds singing.  Yesterday, I even heard cicadas singing at the park.  There are buds outside our kitchen window that have opened in the past few days and begun to bloom (I believe it is a tulip tree!)  The beauty of these blossoms has captured my attention.  The cold and dark and silence of winter is evanescent- hope springs yet again, and with seasons' change, we are reminded that God makes all things new.


"Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!...
Each day proclaim the good news that He saves!
Honor and majesty surround Him;
strength and beauty fill His sanctuary...
Recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong!
Worship the Lord in all His holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before Him...
Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout His praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
for He is coming!"
(Excerpts from Psalm 96)

"And He who was seated on the throne said,
'Behold, I am making all things new.'
Also He said, 'Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
(Revelation 21:5)