Tell Your Story, child of God....

…no matter how messy, no matter how broken, no matter how amazing, no matter how humbling: tell your story.

Last night I had the privilege and honor of sharing a short testimony and a couple of my songs at the Abortion Alternatives and Crisis Pregnancy Center’s first fundraising banquet in Abingdon.

the keynote speaker shared her testimony of deliverance from her own chains of aborting a baby as a teenager, how God had redeemed her, and how Satan for so many years had bound her in guilt and shame. She shared that every time she shared her testimony, women come to share their story with her, and she can point them to the redemption and freedom found in the forgiveness of Jesus! Because she shares her story, others find freedom, too!

After the banquet was over, a woman who had been sitting at a table in front of the stage stopped me to speak to me about my music, specifically telling me that she really liked “Child of God.” I don't often go straight into a song story, but last night I did (because that’s how God orchestrates things!). I shared with her how I had stepped away from a worship leader position that I had loved and known so long, and that one day as I sat crying, grieving over what I thought at the time was a lost piece of me, I asked God, “Who am I now, if I’m not a worship leader?” I told her how quickly the Holy Spirit answered, “You are mine,” and how God has shown me that being His child and knowing my identity in Him is the greatest, most significant title I could ever hold.

As I spoke to her, her face changed, and she began to cry. She said in astonishment, “That’s my story.” She began to share with me that she had loved leading music and worship, but because of her health, she had to step away. She asked God the same question, “Who am I now?” Because of sharing my story, I was able to tell her (with tears running down my face, of course!) that God says, “You are mine!” I was able to hug her and tell her that she was precious in His sight, and that being a child of God is the most significant title that she could have.

What a privilege to be used by the King of Kings to speak peace into a grieving heart!

So, I tell this story to tell you: tell your story, friends. Your story could be the Holy Spirit speaking peace in someone’s storm, hope in someone’s desperation, or freedom in someone’s bondage! Tell your story.

(In case you need a reminder of who God says you are: Child of God….. Listen to "Child of God"

Words to Worship By - "In the Spirit and in Truth"

When something stirs in my heart for a time, a long time, it’s a stirring of speaking out. I have tested the spirits (1 John 4:1), and I am prompted to speak….

We worship a Triune God who is the creator of the heavens and the earth, through Him and to him all things were made. Our creator, redeemer, and sustainer, gifter of our gifts, whose ways we cannot comprehend, whose thoughts outnumber the grains of sand.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— Psalm 139:17-18

Jesus offers to us a picture of what true worship should be:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 

Brothers and sisters, Worship cannot be reduced to what happens within an hour on a Sunday morning - that’s just a small piece. Our worship should be defined within the scope of our lives, as living sacrifices.

Jesus, however, does not say how this is to be done.

Can we worship God with a band - with new, fresh words from a humble heart who loves Jesus? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we worship God with a mighty organ, a full choir, and hearts singing in four part harmonies so beautifully that the roof may lift off the building? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we worship God in creating art that is honoring and glorifying to Him, that draws attention beyond a moment? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we dance before the Lord in boldness or gracefulness? Yes - in the Spirit and in Truth!

Can we write beautiful poetry, proclaiming God’s faithfulness, words painted on a page? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we tell stories of God’s faithfulness in our own lives? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we craft prayer blankets for those who are sick or lonely or grieving, in worship to God? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we help a neighbor fix a roof, or paint a house, or cut down a fallen tree in their yard? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

Can we create a meal for someone who needs an extra hand? YES - in the Spirit and in truth!

All of these are worship unto the Lord! They are all sacrifices of praise to God who became flesh, dwelt among us, and reconciled us, making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

In Exodus 35, Moses assembles the entire Israelite community for materials for the Tabernacle, and tells them,

[God] has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers. - Exodus 35:35

“HE HAS FILLED THEM”….I won’t list the entire 35 verses, but all of the different skills that God gifted unto His people are more than I could have listed! HOW BEAUTIFUL!

Please, let’s not pigeonhole God’s amazing artistry and creation into a single category, claiming that worship has to look like this or that, or say that one skill is more important than another. Jesus said it has to look like “in the Spirit and truth.” Through all of these gifts, and the working of these gifts, in truth and in the Spirit, are we not all pointing to Jesus? Isn’t that our aim?

If each of us will step back and be willing, God will change our hearts and minds, renewing them to be conformed more into His. He will give us eyes to see and ears to hear, if we ask Him and are open to new ways of seeing His goodness. I know…He’s broadened my scope of His beauty.

Not all will come to know Christ through the same path... Some things will not be our preference, but may impact another in a deeply meaningful way. That is good! it’s not competition, it’s not threatening, it’s not to be feared - it’s diverse and beautiful.

When we worship God in the Spirit and in truth, we can appreciate God’s immeasurable creativity and proclaim, “God, you’ve amazed me in a new way!” He will open our eyes to the beauty of His thoughts and His creativity, and show us new ways that we can be amazed at His goodness and His grace.

"Grace Exchange" with CS Lewis, Anne, and Ross Wilson

Last week, God gifted me with an opportunity to attend the SING! 2019 conference in Nashville, TN. (When I say, “God gifted,” I literally mean, Brian’s grandmother mentioned to her church members one week before the conference that I had spoken about how much they would enjoy that conference and I would like to go sometime. The next day, they invited me to go in the place of one who had just said she could not go - hotel and conference already paid. A gift!). Not only did I enjoy my new friends, but I highly enjoyed singing hymns acapella in the acoustics of the Grand Ole Opry. The harmonies were so full and rich!

However, the singing at the SING! conference was not my greatest takeaway! It was found in a 45 minute breakout session entitled, “Christianity, Art, and Culture” with an Irish artist and sculptor named Ross Wilson - ( Writing as fiercely as possible, I tried to capture so many great quotes that he shared:

“Art is a reflection of God’s creativity, and evidence that we are made in the image of God.” —Francis Schaeffer

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” - Simone Weil

“Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” GK Chesterton

Rosse Wilson:

“Draw attention beyond the moment.”

“The love of Christ permeates every spectrum of life.”

“Knowledge has been reduced to information.”

“God doesn’t want something from us, He wants us.”

All of these are worth contemplation and application, but the story of CS Lewis, a 10-year-old named Anne, and “The Searcher” is one that has stuck with me.

Ross Wilson discovered that CS Lewis had written a letter to a young girl in response to a letter she had sent him. She had been reading The Silver Chair and asked her mother about Aslan having to give up his life for the life of others, as she didn’t understand. Her mother told her to write the author and asked, so she did! In what Ross Wilson calls a moment of “grace exchange,” CS Lewis replied to her letter. He took 10-15 minutes to answer the letter of a young girl. When the girl received the response from Lewis, she was awestruck and humbled and her life was changed!

Wilson found the young girl many years later and she showed the letter to him. It was worn, as she had carried it in her pocket everyday for two years after she received it. That letter had changed her life and brought her to faith in Jesus, as Lewis clearly explained the comparison between Aslan and Jesus. What an exchange of grace that Lewis took time to answer the inquiry of a little girl!

Wilson was impacted by this story, and to commemorate Lewis, created “The Searcher,” which can be found in a square in Belfast. On the back of the wardrobe, Anne’s response from CS Lewis is cast in metal and shown for all to view. Lovely.

I confess that my “grace exchange” is so often crowded out by my own self focus - what I have to do, what I have to get finished, where I have to go, who has hurt me. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (1:17-19a)”

The Enemy loves to turn us inward and keep our focus on ourselves, but in moments of the Spirit’s grace exchange, He offers to me His wisdom and revelation, and enlightens the eyes of my heart to those around me - so much more beautiful!

And so, for you and for me, I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be opened to draw our attention beyond the moment, so that the love of Christ may permeate every spectrum of our lives. We never know when a simple moment of grace exchange will be the difference.

Boasting in My Weaknesses

“I read the newspaper article and what you said, and I felt like I needed to come tonight. Thank you for talking about spiritual warfare. I am dealing with a major battle right now, and I don’t know who I can talk to about it. I’m afraid people will think I’m crazy to talk to them about how Satan is pushing me down.”

“I am the one who needed to hear your message tonight. I am in a valley right now, and it is so hard. (Tears in her eyes) “

“Your honesty is refreshing. To hear about your struggles makes me feel like I am not alone.”

On the days when I feel like I am being separated more and more from what feels comfortable, familiar, and secure, God gives me moments like these. All three of these were words spoken to me last night after the Night of Worship in Marion, VA where I shared my testimony and songs about the valley I was in, about life, and about my Triune God being my sustenance.

In years past, I felt as if I had to be strong. I had to portray “The joy of the Lord is my strength” in every arena, because I was a Christian, right? If I was struggling, then I couldn’t let it be known. Then I would look weak, my faith would look weak, and people might think I couldn’t handle life.

Then came the valley …. and the liberation.

I have recently learned that people I meet at some of the places where I’ve shared want to talk to me about my story - my story of weakness. It’s so interesting to me that when I share my weaknesses, people seem to react in a way that they feel safe to share their weaknesses, too. Do my weaknesses make me more approachable? Maybe so.

Here’s one: I am being made more aware of how I struggle with lack of control. I KNOW that I need to trust God. I KNOW that He has a perfect plan. I KNOW that He loves me deeply and intimately. How do I get my heart to believe that? Maybe that’s why I know the verse, “I believe. Help my unbelief,” so well. A work in progress. Maybe that’s why God continues to give me new things that I cannot control because I am not equipped or don’t have the knowledge to control. That’s just funny to say. I can hear God saying, “Oh, good grief! Fine, then…I’ll put you into this so you HAVE to trust me, because you don’t know any other way.” Thank you, God, for your patience with me.

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I could never have understood how someone would boast in their weaknesses a few years ago. Admitting my brokenness, hurt, and deep sadness was and is liberating. Here’s why: because I don’t have to pretend that I’ve got it all figured out. There’s no more “What would people think if they knew that about you?” playing in my head. I don’t have to be the perfect Christian (ha….as if anyone is). I don’t have to portray this strong woman who is the doting wife or the perfect mother. I’m a hard to deal with wife sometimes. My sweet husband would not admit it, I don’t think, but I know I am. He’s even keeled, and I’m the roller coaster, no doubt. As well, I’m not a perfect mother. I’m impatient sometimes, and sometimes I talk back to my kids in the same way they talk to me, instead of being the grown up and getting myself together and modeling good confrontational, conversational skills… because sometimes I do not have the fruits of the Spirit.

The fact that I can be used in this state is just crazy to me. However….Moses was a murderer, but chosen to lead the people out of Egypt. David was an adulterer and a murderer, but was king. Gideon (oh how I feel like I’m Gideon so often) doubted and asked God to prove himself time and again, and in God’s beautiful patience, He gave Gideon sign after sign and Gideon erected an altar - The Lord is My Peace.

So, this evening I boast in my weaknesses, because this weekend, boasting in my weaknesses brought me so much confirmation in being called out - not because of ME, but because God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. When we admit our weaknesses, we point people to God’s wholly working grace in our hearts and lives, and to His power to change us and mold us more and more into His image.

I Cry, "Hosanna!"

Holy Week. I have been thinking about Palm Sunday over the past few days, and the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

In those days, the annual Passover celebration was occurring; therefore, the population in the city was comparable to the race coming to Bristol (when folks used to crowd Bristol for the race!).  The word had gotten out - this carpenter from Nazareth was healing people in miraculous ways, even raising the dead to life.  He wept with the grieving, he loved the outcast.  He was going to be King!  He was going to save them from all of their governmental troubles, so many of them thought.

The people lined the streets - HE was coming!  I am sure they expected him to ride into Jerusalem on a strong, white horse, with all of the regalia of a normal KIng’s entry.  Trumpets blowing, banners waving. Instead, he sends his disciples to get the colt of a donkey.  He doesn’t ride in with power, demanding people to bow.  He rides into Jerusalem to claim His position as the Savior of the world.  

Those who were there “rolled out the red carpet” by laying their cloaks on the road and breaking branches to wave in celebration.  As their new king rode through the streets, excitement filled the air! “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” FINALLY, their long-awaited king had come!

I try to envision myself there on the road.  What would I really have done?  Would I have believed that THIS was the Savior of the world? Would I have taken off my cloak and laid it on the road and broken branches to wave? Would I have been among the doubters, only there to watch the spectacle and parade, curious to see this Jesus with my own eyes and make my own call? Maybe I would have been all of the above, in some form or fashion.  

Maybe if I’m honest, I am all of the above, in some form or fashion.

A couple of days ago, I sat down to ponder what “cloak” I might spread wide at Jesus’ feet. I made a list: burdens, pride, my own strength, sin and weakness. (Ironic that strength and weakness are on my list.). 

Somedays, I am so weighted by the burdens in my heart, that I can’t even lift the cloak from my shoulders - Jesus has to do it for me.  Other days, when I’m honest, pride invites me to feel like my work should be rewarded, and that my value comes from what others might say of me - opposite of “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)  Then there are days when I am so strong, and believe that I can fight to figure it out, I’m smart enough to figure it out, or I can save the day by my actions. (Notice how many times I said “I” in that sentence.) Lastly, there are days when I am so aware of my own sinfulness, ugliness, and shame, that I feel like God would be crazy to want to use my hypocritical, broken self to bring glory to His name.  

The crowds cried, “Hosanna!” acknowledging that Jesus was their hope over their enemies, their rulers, and their government. Today, I cry “Hosanna!” in surrender and in praise, acknowledging that Jesus is my hope to save me from myself!  Paul said it well to the church in Rome:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:14-25)

Who will rescue ME from ME?  Jesus.

So, every day I MUST lay down my “cloak” for Jesus to trample it by GRACE and LOVE. Only by that grace and love may I wave my palm branch, simultaneously surrendering my broken, burdened, sinful life and praising the King of kings who comes to save me - the King who finds me in the crowd and summons me to lay my trophies at His feet, then lifts my head and pardons me from the immense debt I owe.

Ride on, King Jesus.

“I Cry, ‘Hosanna!’”

Somedays this cloak bears heavy on my shoulders,

it’s the burdens of this life that weigh me down.

Some days this cloak is pride that I am wearing,

as if I’m the one deserving of a robe and a crown.

But by Your grace I choose to spread it wide before You now…

And I cry, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Save me from myself.

Hosanna!  Hosanna!

I cry out in surrender and in praise!

Somedays this cloak is strength that I’m parading,

Like a superhero I can save the day.

Other days it’s sinfulness and weakness,        

How could I be used to bring glory to Your Name?

But by Your grace I choose to spread it wide before You now…

And I cry, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Save me from myself.

Hosanna!  Hosanna!

I cry out in surrender and in praise!

Blessed is the LORD, 

the King who summons me 

To lay my trophies at His feet, then

Lifts my head to pardon me.

I cry, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Save me from myself.

Hosanna!  Hosanna!

I cry out in surrender and in praise!

Song Story: "Take Captive Every Thought" - The Enemy - a liar!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5

2017 and the start of 2018 were not great times for me.

In the fall of 2017, I stepped away from a worship leader position at a church that I loved (still so many that I love there!). I was hurt deeply, and the Enemy’s lies to me and about me became believable in my broken heart.

“You’re not a good enough singer.”

“You’re not smart enough to write.”

“Your songs shouldn’t be shared - they aren’t good enough.”

“What makes you think anyone cares?”

My weariness was a wall I could not seem to get over, as if each time I began to reach the top, I was knocked back down again. Spiritual warfare. It’s real, y’all.

One day I broke down and shared my weariness and these attacks with my friend. She clearly stated, “That is NOT what God says about you!” She encouraged me to analyze every thought, ask if it is TRUTH, then choose how to react! …She was right! What a relief! GAME CHANGER!

I began to envision thoughts as a baseball being thrown toward me. The shield of faith was my glove, stopping/catching each “thought” before it hit me, and analyzing it in the light of what God’s Word says. If it is a word to hide in my heart, I keep it. If it is not, I’m throwing it back! Get that outta here!

My heart often leads, for better or for worse. I often have to get back to what I KNOW in my head, often times with my level-headed husband’s encouragement. For me, that’s why the armor of God includes the helmet of salvation! I KNOW God is for me. “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!” That knowledge often protects, strengthens, and sets my heart right, despite what insults are hurled at me.

In writing this song, I gathered words of TRUTH from the Bible, bringing light to the darkness, and power to stand in my weakness!

John 8:44b - [The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

1 Peter 5:8 - Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Ephesians 6:11-17 - Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

John 1:5 - The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

1 Corinthians 15:57 -  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:1-2 - Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 

Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..

Philippians 4:8 - "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Whenever I’m finding myself at the losing end of strength, beaten down by insults and seeds of doubt planted into my heart and head about me, or my marriage, or my kids, I pull this song out! Singing these words of scripture help realign my heart, laying things in the light of God’s love, because darkness cannot overcome the LIGHT! That’s the POWER of the Holy Spirit to fight against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, bringing the devil’s secret schemes to light!

I may have believed the Enemy’s lies before, but this victory’s the LORD’S!

Song Lyrics:

vs. 1 - The Father of lies is prowlin’ around looking for one to devour, planting seeds of doubt and thoughts that will tear down.

But, I won’t be that one today. I put on my armor to fight against the things he may say.

chorus - I take captive every thought that stands against the knowledge of God, and lay it in the light of God’s love, where darkness cannot overcome.

Lies may have won before, but this victory’s the LORD’s!

Vs. 2 - I set my mind on the things of the Lord, and not on the things of this world.

I lean not on my own understanding, but with all my heart trust in the Lord.

bridge - I guard my heart with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just and pure,

Whatever is lovely, excellent and good, whatever is worthy of praise.

ending - This victory’s the LORD’s! You won't tear me down anymore, ‘cause this victory’s the LORD’s!

Song Story: "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" - a Springboard

I grew up attending a small church in a nearby small town. The hymns that we sang were hymns that I am sure many of you would know. Singing hymns as a child was my favorite part of a worship service. I could read music because of my classical training on the piano, and could follow along with notes and try to sing harmony parts. Mostly, however, it was a time that I could participate in worship and did not have to sit still or be quiet while someone else was speaking.

“Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” was a hymn that I do not remember singing as a child, though. I believe my first encounter with this hymn was in my college years at King College, now King University.

For seventeen years of my adulthood, I either participated in or led a worship team at one church. (When I say the words “worship team,” I am referring to the components of a group of people who worked together for a Sunday morning worship service. Within this team was musicians, singers, people who ran a sound board, scripture readers, and those who were responsible for keeping up with words on a screen so that others may sing and follow along. Many people call it a “praise band,” but that sounds and feels outdated to me, as well as lacking the inclusiveness of those who work together for corporate worship, so I go with “worship team.”)

When I began planning worship, I always took note of hymns being sung in the other worship service, especially ones with which I was not familiar. One day I read the words to “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” and I thought about the richness within the lyrics.

Christ is made the sure Foundation,

Christ the Head and Cornerstone;

Chosen of the Lord, and precious,

binding all the Church in one,

Holy Zion’s Help forever, 

and her Confidence alone.

To this temple, where we call Thee,

come, O Lord of Hosts, today;

with Thy wonted lovingkindness

hear Thy servants as they pray.

And Thy fullest benediction

shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all Thy servants

what they ask of Thee to gain;

What they gain from Thee forever

with the blessed to retain,

and hereafter in Thy Glory

evermore with Thee to reign.

Laud and honor to the Father,

laud and honor to the Son;

laud and honor to the Spirit,

ever Three and ever One;

Consubstantial, co-eternal,

while unending ages run.

This hymn identifies where the foundation of the Church has to lie - in Jesus Christ. The second verse invites the Holy Spirit into the worship and asks for a blessing. The third verse reminds us of where our promise lies, that through the grace of God and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we may reign forevermore with God. Finally, the hymn ends giving honor and praise to our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Perfect song for a worship service!…except…. the tune seemed unsingable to a general population, and I was not a fan. (It’s okay if you are a fan of that original tune - totally my opinion.) So, I sat down at my piano one day with the lyrics in front of me, and a new tune flowed easily over the words. In July 2009, I introduced that same new tune to the congregation in the service where I was serving in worship. From that point forward, when we sang “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” we sang it with the new tune. People seemed to like it, it was singable, and it was memorable.

Done!….well, until 9 years later…

On the first Sunday of 2018, my family and I were then attending a different church, and the pastor spoke about how we cannot simply dwell within the circle of our own church and church family, encouraging those gathered that we have to be a “city on a hill,” as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14 - "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."

When I heard that, I thought of “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” - this was the missing, important piece: we cannot only dwell in our own circle. We have to be MOVED into action. We cannot “hide away.”

James 1:22-25 says,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

WOW. I asked myself (and maybe you could ask yourself) So, do I go to church, hear the word, and leave to put my faith and confidence into action? OR, do I hear the word, then leave and, as James says, “forget what I look like?”

In Luke 6:45, Jesus says,

“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Are we so filled by the Holy Spirit that we cannot contain the overflow of our hearts?

Sometimes, I remember what I look like, in whose image I was formed, and the overflow of my heart brings forth words of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It is written all over my face, it shines forth from my eyes! However, sometimes I hear, and then forget what I look like, and so flows from my mouth the overflow of a heart of worry, doubt, and anxiousness, so heavy that I almost cannot bear it. It, too, is written all over my face.

We, as individuals, as “Thy servants,” cannot take the light we’ve been given and simply keep it tucked away in our hearts, or look at it and think about it and relish in it - we have to set it on a pedestal for the whole world to see. AND, we cannot expect people to just want to come see the light within our churches: we have to go out and invite them to come see, to come hear about what God has done in our own lives. We all have a unique, personal story to tell of God’s goodness.

Our foundation in Christ must be a SPRINGBOARD. We must use that foundation and knowledge and peace to propel us into our communities for the Kingdom!

So, nine years later, I added a new chorus to complete the song:

To You, O Lord, our lives we bring:

Stir in us an awakening.

A city on a hill for Thee;

let this church be Your hands and feet,

O let us be Your hands and feet.

So, may we look into the mirror, remember whose we are, remember our foundation, and walk away not forgetting what we look like. May we use that foundation as a springboard to confidently propel us into ways that we may be the hands and feet of Christ, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

Treasure Beyond the Thorns

Since I was a little girl, I have liked rocks, specifically collecting rocks.

In my early elementary years at Chinquapin Elementary School, I began a rock collection. Many days I would invite other children to join me to gather up rocks from the schoolyard and surrounding woods. We formed a massive rock pile that stood many years after the school closed in 1986, and was later torn down. After gathering so many rocks, the rocks seemed to run out, as if we had collected every single one in the allowable area. So, when another rock was found, it was as if a treasure had been discovered!

My family and I recently acquired a small piece of woods behind our house. My husband dreamed of our kids playing army and building forts, while I decided that a walking path would be what I would create. I cleared weeds, thorns, and branches to create a path. When I started clearing the way, I began to find rocks that I would toss to the side to clear the path. I found so many that I created a rock lined portion of my path. It was almost storybook worthy. However, just as a young girl at Chinquapin Elementary School, the rocks seemed to run out, as if I had collected all there was to find in the woods.

I am not sure how it happened, whether the thick dirt settled or whether my keen eye for looking for rocks has become more defined, but recently rocks have begun to “appear” in places I scoured when I was on my rock hunt. Some have appeared just outside my path. Surely I would have seen them before?

This morning, while I was on my daily (at least I try) walk in the woods, one of those rocks appeared. It was just off the path, but I had to look through a huge patch of thick thorns to see it. During the summer, the thorns would have concealed it completely, as green sprouts would have covered and darkened the area where the rock rested. However, a new season revealed a rock that had been there all along, just hidden from sight until the right time.

Lately, I feel like I am experiencing new seasons and changes often. I am not used to this, and some of it I find exciting, but other seasons I find very lonely and isolating. A new season makes the leaves of the thorns die back, revealing what’s there underneath. In my own life, it seems to be that way, as if God is saying, “This is what I’m revealing to you - cut away the thorns to retrieve your treasure.” The treasure has been several things: forgiveness, another step in a new direction with my music, a new perspective to make a situation understandable. Unfortunately, sometimes the thorns are my own sinful thorns of bitterness and grudges; but, sometimes they are thorns of hurt that have dug deeply into my skin, tearing places and leaving scars of where I’ve been.

In Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, He offers God’s promise,

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Psalm 63:8 says (and I love the way the old school KJV reads,)

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

All the time we are following hard after God, His right hand upholds us. I love the way AW Tozer writes about this:

The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him. and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand.

God promises to be found when we seek Him. That’s a promise to KNOW with my head, and to remind my heart when it FEELS like He is nowhere to be found. God doesn’t promise an answer right away, because maybe the clearing of thorns has to happen to reveal His plan, or to make us (ME) aware of our (MY) own sinfulness.

So, follow hard. Seek with all your heart. Cut away the thorns. Wait for a new season. There is (more) treasure to be found, just beyond the thorns.