The most glorious thing I enjoy on this earth is singing with others who share the same hope as I do in Jesus. I enjoy it most as we sing hymns, when they are sung from the soul, not just a hymnal or the screen. This particular thing Christians do together is the closest thing to heaven itself. It’s like we can look around as we sing together and ask, don’t you long for “oh that day when freed from sinning?” It’s the one thing that currently keeps us from experiencing a pure joy of worship; we still sin. But if you know Jesus, you get a taste of that joy that will one day be pure.
Then came the day when our son, Haddon, died as he laid in our lap. Worship, and particularly hymns, took on a new meaning in my life. Suddenly singing about ‘when sorrows like sea billows roll’ was a daily reality. I have felt sorrow to such a degree that I thought I would be overtaken and drown. I have felt and cried to the Lord ‘when darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.’ But I also I learned that I like to sing a hymn in my grief because they are written in such a way that sums up our solid hope. Do you notice a pattern in most hymns?
I have a different joy now as I sing, because now its mixed with deep longing. I feel it rise in me as I sing:
“When with the ransomed in Glory,
His face I at last shall see.
It will be my joy through the ages
To sing of his love for me.”
To finally see his face, the one who took my son, yet showed me more about the worth of His son through unbelievable sorrow, I can’t even sing with my voice. Tears overcome me when I sing of heaven. So I silently mouth a lot of songs in my home, my church and my car, but I silently mouth the words with my whole heart and soul.
Chubby hands clutching the ropes, “Higher! Higher,” she squeals. Only clouds and sun and sweet wind kiss her face. No cares, no worries. Nurturing hands push her upward.
More securely now, small hands on the ropes, “Higher! Higher,” she screams. Bows and ribbons and grass and tops of trees; Innocence on her lips, sweetness and life. Protective hands push her onward.
Careless and dauntless she climbs now. “Higher! Higher,” she demands. The world at her fingertips and knowledge a thing to be won; independence on her lips. Still guiding hands push her forward.
Smoothly and effortlessly she soars, “Higher! Higher,” she yells. Ambiguous horizon and ambivalent sighs, the climb ever necessary, the tasks ever present. There, gentle hands push her through.
Slowly and painfully she grasps the ropes, “High enough. High enough,” she says. Darkness and relief and calming storms fill tired eyes. A hush, a whisper, a breath. Gently now, tender Hands bring her home.
Long arms and strong legs swing effortlessly, “Perfect! Perfect,” she sings. Light and Love and Joy sing with her, life dancing in her eyes, laughter behind and all around.
Redeeming Hands hold her, and love her, and push her…
Swinging Swinging Swinging.
I’ll be brutally honest. My Dad wanted a son to take over his business. He had two girls, and I was the heir-apparent. My “Daddy issues” carried over into my marriage. Roger, my fledgling pastor-husband, sought advice from our church counselor about how to handle a driven wife. Dr. Dowdle advised, “Julie is a talented and powerful woman. You had better set her free to be all that God wants her to be, or in twenty years you’re going to have a very angry lady on your hands.”
Not too long ago I was reading the familiar passage many bible translations label as “the call of Peter”. That is how I had always seen it – as that pivotal moment Jesus let Simon Peter know he would no longer be catching fish, but instead would be catching men for the Kingdom. True. It was that: an invitation to a transformed life that would produce fruit impacting eternity! But, on this day, I saw something else here; something my life-worn soul needed so desperately to see. (more…)
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you
I have been struck lately by how often scripture references God’s steadfast love. Every time I read those words it’s like honey to my soul. I’m not sure why it always seems “surprising” to me when I find those words nestled away in various, sometimes obscure passages of scripture, but I think I sometimes get caught up in verse 2 of Psalm 63 that is referenced above:
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
In my awe of Him as Sovereign Creator and Lord of the Universe, His steadfast love gets eclipsed by that in my heart. So those reminders that this awesome, powerful God, who is “not a tame lion”, is good and loves me with a steadfast love, are refreshingly sweet and reassuring.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
George Mueller had this to say in a writing called “Soul Nourishment First” https://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-8-soul-nourishment-first
I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
Which reminded me of this passage of scripture:
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
The dictionary defines the word satisfy in this way:
1.to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.); give full contentment to: 2. to put an end to (a desire, want, need, etc.) by sufficient or ample provision: 3. to give assurance to; convince: 4. to answer sufficiently, as an objection. 5. to solve or dispel, as a doubt.
Can you imagine if we allowed ourselves to believe that God’s steadfast love satisfies in this way? The truth is, God’s steadfast love, which is intrinsically faithful, and enduring by virtue of the nature of the One from which it is given, is the only kind of love that satisfies. All other love will fail us. Only His love can fulfill our desires, expectations and needs.(Psalm 138::8) Only His love can give us full contentment. (Ephesians 3:16-19) Only His love can put an end to all other desires by making sufficient provision. (Lamentations 3:22-24) Only His love can dispel our doubts and fears (1 John 4:18). Indeed, as we read in Psalm 63, His steadfast love is better than life!
If our soul is truly nourished and satisfied by His steadfast love, we will be less-inclined to be needy and self-focused, and can give to others out of the fullness of our joy and Christ’s love. Imagine if we began each day with this truth, and allowed it to power us through the day, like an ocean current, directing the flow of all that lives, and breathes and churns in the tidal ebb and flood that is our life.
Let me close with this poem:
The Ocean of Christ’s Love
vast and boundless,
like an ocean,
deep and wide and powerful
calls to us.
It laps against the pride of our stony hearts.
Will we stand on shore
content to let it merely wash our tired feet
dusty from the trail of life?
or will we plunge headlong,
immersing ourselves in the pounding surf,
caught by the undertow,
our old selves buried
as our new selves rise on the crest of the wave of
Christ’s redeeming love?
Will we let it cleanse our filthiness?
Will we let it heal our brokenness?
Will we let it still our restlessness and claim our wandering souls?
Will we let it transform us as it beats against our rocky hearts,
eroding the layers of our sin and rebellion until we are formed into His image?
Will we let it compel us to yield our stubborn will to His, so we can be used
for His purpose and glory?
This love He died to show us?
This love that cost Him dear?
Like the ocean that spans from East to West
it reaches far enough to cover the sin of the darkest soul.
Dive in weary traveler.
in the ocean of Christ’s love.
This love is a love that truly satisfies. Why would we settle for anything less?
Have you ever run all over your house looking for your glasses when they were on your head? How about screaming to the person on your cell phone that you can’t find your phone? A young mother just told me that she couldn’t figure out why her other three children kept looking at her like she was out of her mind when she asked them where their baby sister was…their baby sister who was perched happily on her hip!
The best one yet, however, was from my good friend who told me the other day that when she poured her morning cup of coffee she scalded her hand when she picked it up. Having not even looked at the cup before touching it, she looked down bewildered. That’s when she saw that she had poured her coffee into and long stem wine glass.
Life is often a madhouse, a series of seemingly random, but purposeful events that string together in something that seldom looks like pearls. Our life strings often look more like one of those pasta necklaces our children made for us in preschool.
In other words, it’s not neat. It’s messy.
My daddy used to tell me that I had two speeds in life: Stop and Hair on Fire. Unfortunately, I seem to settle in the one where smoke billows from my head. Do you?
As Christian women who “manage the house,” as Paul very aptly described it in Titus 2, how can we combat this? Because the truth is that as much as we might want to think that productivity comes in the “hair on fire” mode, it really comes in the “stop” mode.
Why do you suppose that the psalmist records our Lord as saying in Psalm 46:10,
Be still and know that I am God.
When you really think about the application of this verse in day-to-day terms, the truth is that none of us can listen to anyone while we’re spinning in life to the point of exhaustion and losing our glasses, children, minds, and coffee mugs! How can we expect the peace that surpasses all understanding from our Father when we aren’t at peace in our lives? (Philippians 4:7)
Sisters, no one can force you to look for this kind of peace. You must decisively choose to stop, even for a moment, and listen. God speaks to us every day and in so many beautiful ways. However, we simply will not hear Him if we are running around with our hair on fire, even if it is doing things that are ultimately good.
C.S. Lewis once said,
“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day come rushing at you like wild animals. And the first job of every morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter voice come flowing in.”
As women of God, we are called to be women of excellence in His name, so of course, our lives are going to be full. But full doesn’t have to mean crazy. Full doesn’t have to mean running around like the proverbial chicken with her head cut off. And full doesn’t have to mean out of control.
Full means living to the best and loveliest extent of all that the Father has given us. Full means smiling in the running, singing in the busy, laughing in the chaos. Most importantly, though, full means living a life that ultimately points to the gracious love of our Savior. Full means that we do not lack joy or rest in the middle of everything we do.
In order for us to do that, sometimes we have to stop, take a breath, and look up. Sometimes we simply have to remember when Jesus said,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
It’s okay that sometimes you lose the child on your hip or that you grab a wine glass instead of a coffee cup. But when those times come, remember that perhaps it’s also time to stop, take a knee, and know that He is God.