Singing Scripture

Nana singing to twins

We often sang in the car as we traveled when I was young. My parents both had excellent voices and sang harmony, baritone and alto, in a mixed quartet while in college. They represented their school, Huntington College, Indiana, singing in various churches.

Since my parents both sang parts, someone had to carry the melody, so that fell to me. I can sing a melody line with the best of them, but I cannot sing a harmony part to save my life.

I wish I could.

We sang lots of hymns, gospel songs, folk songs, and what I think of as “camp fire songs”, Home on the Range, Cowboy Joe, etc.

I liked the gospel songs the best. They were upbeat, often had an echoing part, and were just plain fun to sing. They also rang true to me – they represented the Christian beliefs that were lived and taught in my home while growing up.

As I continued to grow, singing remained an important part of my life. In high school I started playing the guitar. I still play that same guitar today, 50 years later. I wanted to play the guitar to accompany singing, so I just play by ear, but I know LOTS of songs.

I was part of Christian singing groups in high school and college, and began learning scripture set to music.

Those scripture songs are so very dear to me. I will be thinking random thoughts and a scripture song will come to mind. I will then sing that scripture and be blessed by God’s word. It is hard for me to memorize Bible verses at my age, but I can easily remember words set to music.

It blesses my soul!

Gayleand Elaine in Israel

One of my most precious memories of our recent trip to Israel was singing scripture and hymns with my friend Elaine. We would see something, or hear someone share something and a scripture song would come to one of our minds. Several times Elaine and I had the same song on our hearts at the same time! What a blessing! We not only walked where Jesus walked, we sang as well.

Colossians 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

I will always be thankful for the musical heritage passed down to me by my parents. Phil and I sang a lot with our children, and although neither of us sing harmony, we sang lots of gospel songs, hymns, and scripture together. Truthfully, sometimes we sang to distract a fussy little traveler. It usually worked!

Now we sing with our grandchildren. I hope to pass down that same musical heritage to this next generation. An unexpected blessing has been the new songs that they teach me.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…” Psalm 104:33

That is the cry of my heart.

Nana singing around campfire

 

 

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Heart Condition

I took my mother to her heart doctor today as a follow up to having her pace maker replaced last week. She is doing well, the incision is healing nicely, and the data from the pace maker indicates that her heart is doing what it is designed to do.

We are thankful.

We then visited her family practice doctor to ask about some slight swelling in Mother’s legs. He asked her several questions, questions designed to reveal if  there is anything going on in the rest of her body that might signal a heart condition. The answers indicated that mother has been more active since I have been visiting with her, and that the extreme heat here in Chicagoland is causing that bit of swelling.

Nothing to be concerned about.

We were glad we went to the doctor and it got me to thinking about the questions doctors ask. Questions designed to reveal information about conditions that may not show up on the surface, but could be of grave concern. Those questions could reveal heart conditions that are hidden from view.

The questions we ask reveal much about who we are, don’t they?

I remember being in the hospital with my father right before he passed away. His condition was a mystery at first, and five different specialists were consulted to try to determine what was wrong.

Each specialist came to talk to my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, and myself. We listened to their preliminary diagnosis, and then were asked if we had any questions.

My brother would ask a question, and immediately you could see a change in the specialist’s deminor. They would ask, “Are you a medical person?” They knew immediately, without my brother saying so, that he had medical knowledge by the vocabulary he used, by the insight he had into what the specialists shared. My brother is a family practice physician and had been on the other end of these conversations countless times. His questions revealed who he is.

Jesus did the same thing when people came to Him seeking help. Jesus asked questiones to determine the condition of their hearts.

In Matthew 19:3-6 Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus asks them a question to test their hearts.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus knew they were trying to trap him, but instead Jesus revealed the condition of their hearts.

We must guard our hearts that they do not become hard. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts, don’t they?

Jesus says in Matthew 12:34b

For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart,

I pray that our hearts are in good condition.

Real Wonder Women

Four Generations 1979

I am staying with my mother this week following the replacement of her pacemaker.

Look out world, she has another 15 years on this new device!

At 89 my mother is an amazing example of someone who embraces life and sees each day as an adventure. She is a woman of strong convictions and loves people with genuine feeling. Get within ear shot and Mother will engage you in conversation, hoping to share at every opportunity “the hope that lies within her.”

There has been lots in the news recently about Wonder Woman, the movie and it’s groundbreaking success as a film about a female super hero. Alongside these stories have been additional offerings concerning the issues that women face in current culture, exploring efforts of women to “have it all” – by overcoming the glass ceilings in many areas of entertainment or careers, AND having satisfying and meaningful relationships.

The first question that arose in my mind was “What is “it“?

What exactly does it mean to “have it all?”

Certainly in our diverse and pluralistic society these commentators are not suggesting that “it” is the same for all of us women, are they?

While listening to these viewpoints it seemed that the prevailing attitude was that many women don’t reach their goals or dreams because their responsibilities to their families hold them back. Small children prevent them from becoming the CEO because they can’t leave an ill child at day care and therefore they miss the important board meeting insuring being passed over for a promotion. Is a promotion guaranteed if one doesn’t have children? I think not.

But the question remains… can a woman “have it all”?

That depends on what “it” is.

So, I asked myself… do I have it all? Did my mother?….did my Grandmother?

I look at the above picture and see women who have had it all. Yet, not all at once, nor in the same way.

Let me explain.

My grandmother emigrated from Sweden in 1920. She came to Chicago via Ellis Island with one suitcase. Her dream was to raise a family as an American citizen. She first worked as a maid, then a cook for a wealthy Chicago family. After meeting my grandfather, she married, had three daughters, raised two grandsons, eventually living in a lovely brick colonial home in a northern suburb of Chicago. She began oil painting when she was 55 and she continued painting until she was 90. Her greatest joy came from her relationship with God through Jesus Christ. She loved to quote Bible verses – sometimes out of context – and share the fact that Jesus loves each individual, regardless of who they are.

At the end of her life, she felt she had it all. She had lived the American dream and was going to spend eternity with her Lord and Savior.

My mother grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents. She married her college sweetheart before finishing her degree and soon had three children. She stayed home raising them, eventually getting an Associate Degree in Library Science when her children were in college. Together with another family they ran a family campground in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina during the summer for 22 years. After my father retired from teaching high school Biology, my parents went to teach at a mission school in Taiwan. This had been a dream of my mother’s since childhood – to serve in a foreign county. They lived and worked in Taiwan for 7 years returning to care for aging parents. My mother has participated in and taught women’s Bible studies for over 65 years and she has continued to do this in her 80’s.

My mother just turned 89 in May and she will tell you she has had it all. Not all at once, but she has lived fully and experienced things she didn’t dare to dream. (trips to Brazil at ages 86 and 87)

These women have lived purposeful, meaningful lives. They have not been paid seven-figure salaries. They have not had books written about them (yet) nor gone viral on YouTube (thankfully! well – almost).

Wonder Women!

Jesus said this – in Mark 9:34-38 (NIV)

34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.”

 

The point our culture misses is that the path to true greatness is servant-hood.

When we are serving our families as mothers and wives we are being obedient to a high calling. Jesus Himself placed children front and center as we see in verse 37.

Some women are called to places of authority – some are not. Having it all for daughters of our Heavenly Father means serving one another –  whether we are the CEO or the one who changes diapers.

These are the true Wonder Women  – the women who serve with a servant’s heart.

 

Sure Footing

 

Mt. Precipice overlooking the Sea of Galilee

“Just put your foot on the next staple, then move your hands down and lower yourself to the staple below. Keep doing that until you are at the bottom.”

“just” –  does that word cause you to pause?

It should. One person’s “just” may be a significant challenge for someone else. As in “just tell him “no” – when you want your child to stop doing something that may be dangerous. Depending on the child, that may or may not be a simple solution.

Something that challenges me down to the very fiber of my being, may be “just climbing down a cliff” to someone else.

While in Israel, the main quality of the topography that Phil and I noticed were the rocks. (This is besides everything being very dry unless it is irrigated.) Rocks were everywhere. In the ancient sites and ruins we visited, the buildings were constructed of rocks and are therefore still visible. This makes perfect sense because rocks are in such abundance and people throughout history use what is available to construct dwellings.

After seeing rocks everywhere, it should have come as no surprise that our group would be asked to descend a rock formation.

Yet, Elaine and I WERE surprised!

We had hiked up a steep slope through brown grass that was sprinkled with flowers, startling in their beauty because everything around was so brown. The end of our climb was a spectacular panoramic view. This mountain was called Mt. Precipice.

I looked up the word precipice  – it means – a very steep rock face or cliff, typically a tall one. The name was so appropriate and should have been a clue of what was to come.

After our guide James pointed out the significance of the surrounding landscape and what Jesus would have seen during his time, we saw where we would be hiking next, even where we would be spending the night. (FAR in the distance!)

James then said, “We are just going to descend this cliff. It is a bit tricky, but we will help each other.”

The path James led us to was straight down!

You can see from the photo that I am not exaggerating. We were told that morning  before we left that there were some “rocky bits” and “one strenuous part.” We had been on rocky bits the whole trail. I should have know that when James said “strenuous” it really would be. There were large iron staples embedded in the rock face to hold on to and step on as one climbed down.

I watched as the others started descending first. I was so proud of Elaine! What a trooper! She went down from hand/foot hold to hand/foot hold, step by step.

As I watched Elaine descend, I knew I could as well. She went before me, making sure each of her steps was on sure footing.

Elaine’s example gave me courage and encouragement to make the descent myself. My biggest concern was making sure my foot was securely on a staple before I put my weight on it and went down to the next staple. I wasn’t sure I could see the next staple.

Phil went before me and when I needed it, he guided my foot to the next staple. Once I felt the staple under my foot – sure footing – I was fine.

Needless to say, we all made it down in one piece.

I have thought since then that this is a picture of our walk with God and how important the Body of Christ is. In life we come to those times where we are on a precipice, we are not sure where to go, or how to face what we see ahead. It may seem that there is NO WAY forward. Yet if we look around, God often provides someone who is going through something similar – right before us – and that person can support and guide us along the way.

Seeing Elaine descend successfully, then having Phil guide my feet, prevented me from being paralyzed by fear or being left behind on the mountain.

In Psalm 37:23-24 it says –

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In Psalm 40, David encourages me –

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

We can encourage one another as we walk with God, encourage each other to keep out feet on the Rock, our sure footing.

Every Tribe, Every Nation

 

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“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

Since Phil and I returned home last Thursday, people have asked me, “What impression impacted you the most from your trip to Israel?”

I expected to see Jewish people, some from many different continents as the diaspora have returned to the nation of Israel since it’s modern establishment in 1948. I also expected to see many Arabs who have populated this region since their beginnings as children of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

What I did not expect to see was the many hundreds of Christian pilgrims from every tribe and every nation on earth.

The second through fifth days of our trip were spent hiking the Jesus Trail. This is a well marked trail from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of His time in ministry. Our group of 10 people walked where Jesus walked and lived, seeing the locations of several of His miracles and the ruins of the occupying Roman government. This is not a heavily populated area and the  people we saw were mainly Jews and Arabs, living in a delicate balance of religious and political tolerance.

The next few days were spent mainly in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, visiting the many significant sights of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection. This is a modern urban area, surrounding the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were hundreds of people arriving on large tour buses at each site we visited.

This is what surprised and blessed me.

This is what I did not expect.

The “pilgrims” like myself, were Christians from every people group I can think of.  The following nationalities represent people we either spoke to or we heard them say that they were –

  •  Africans – from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya
  •  Asians – from China, Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan
  • Hispanics – from Ecuador, Argentina. and Mexico
  • Europeans,  – from Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy
  • Eastern Europeans – from Poland, Czech Republic, Russia
  • Australians
  • New Zealanders
  • Canadians, Virgian Islands
  • US Citizens from many different states

 

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All of these people came to pay homage to Jesus and the places where Jesus lived and and carried out His ministry.

Why did this bless me so much? Why was I surprised to see people from every tribe and every nation worshipping Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

I have to admit that my response revealed my narrow view of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom that Jesus will establish when He returns again to earth.

In Revelation John shares the following vision.

Revelation 7:9-10

9. After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10. And they cried out in a loud voice:    

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Seeing these large groups of people from nations throughout the world should not have surprised me. We were after all near the very location where the Bible teaches God created the first people. If I believe this Biblical account, and I do, then all the various people I was seeing had ancestors who originated here as well, just like I did.

I was overcome by the blessing of seeing this very diverse representation of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church. Our church gatherings here in the United States are but a small representation of what God has gathered together in the Body of Christ world wide. My visit to Jerusalem gave me a glimpse into this much bigger picture.

We looked different, dressed differently, talked and sang differently, prayed differently, even expressed our love for Jesus in different ways, but we had a common purpose.

We were there in Israel to honor Jesus, the King of Kings.

I will sing that familiar children’s song with new meaning now……

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

 

 

 

Cut Off the Dead

The rhododendrons are absolutely glorious right now. Several people have come by to see them because the bushes are just LOADED with blooms which also attract a multitude of butterflies. It is truly a feast for the eyes.

These friends will say, “You have such beautiful flowers. You do such a lovely job with your yard.”

I am not being falsely humble when I say that I cannot take credit for the beauty of these flowers. There are several reasons I say this;

  • I did not design or create these flowers
  • I did not plant these flowers – former owners Peggy Mason and her husband Charles did.
  • I did not plant the large white pine trees that tower over these bushes providing the right amount of shade as well as their needles for added mulch and acidity.

The only thing we ever do to these lovely plants is cut off the dead branches.

These dead branches are not only unsightly, but they can harbor insects  or disease that affects the plants’ health.

I have had to cut out lots of dead branches on other plants as well this spring. The late freeze caught several of our hydrangea which had started to bud in the unseasonably warm winter. But then….ZAP!

I was often disheartened as I cut off the results of frozen buds and long stems that only days before had held the promise of big blue blooms later this spring.

Yet when I stood back and looked at the end result….yes! The trimmed plants did look much better.

God wants to cut off the old “dead” parts of our lives.

John 15:1-2 says this –

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

Notice the reason God, the heavenly gardener, cuts off a branch – “so it will be even more fruitful”.

God allows things to be taken from our lives so that the things that remain are more effective. When I cut the blooms from most annuals, the plant will produce more flowers. If  I leave the blooms on the plant, they die on the stem and go to seed. There are no more flowers.

Sometimes we think we are the only one who knows what is “dead”, no longer producing fruit, in our lives.

Our Heavenly Father knows.

We must trust as God cuts off the dead things in our lives so that new growth can flourish.

i remember the sadness I felt when my opportunity to help lead worship ended. That was something I loved doing.

It was cut off.

Now I worship with the congregation and I love being able to focus entirely on worshipping God, not the next cord, song, or when to stop, etc.

God has allowed me to participate in ministry opportunities I would never have dreamed of doing earlier in my live. I tbelieve these are “new growth” resulting from His pruning.

May we trust all our Heavenly Father does in our lives. After all, “my Father is the gardener.”

 

 

 

 

Company is Coming!

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I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”

so – I only vacuum when we have company?

Out of the mouths of babes….

I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.

This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married.  I had gotten all these wedding presents like –

  • dinner ware
  • silver ware
  • placemats
  • cloth napkins
  • matching glasses

So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)

We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.

It was raining.

That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.

So much for the lovely table setting.

The dictionary defines hospitality this way –

  1. Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  2. synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity,

Just look at those synonyms!

  • friendliness
  • welcome
  • helpfulness
  • warmth
  • kindness
  • courtesy
  • generosity

Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.

I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.

Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.

It is the attitude of her heart.

I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendlinesswelcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.

It is an attitude of her heart.

A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.

It did not go well.

But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.

Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.

It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.

It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.

II John 1:12

“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”

Face to face –

this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.

Then our joy may be complete.