Sunday, June 25, 2017

10 Reasons I Sing

Why sing? As I was reading through the Psalms I noticed the phrase 'I will sing.' As I compiled a list of verses that stood out for me they provoked me to ponder the words of an old song, “I sing because I’m happy and I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” I love to sing whether anyone else hears me or not, whether anyone chooses to sing along or not, I sing when I'm sad, I sing when I feel overjoyed.

And though I have many reasons to sing
they all basically fall into three categories;
to respond to God,
to recall what He has done,
and to reflect His glory.

Here are 10 reasons why I will sing His praises until my final breath:

  1. Psalm 7:17    To praise Him because He is just
  2. Psalm 9:2       To praise Him for filling me with joy
  3. Psalm 13:6     To praise Him for His goodness
  4. Psalm 40:3     To praise Him with new songs
  5. Psalm 57:9     To praise Him for His forgiveness
  6. Psalm 59:16   To praise Him for His power
  7. Psalm 59:16   To praise Him for His unfailing love
  8. Psalm 69:30   To praise His name
  9. Psalm 75:9     To praise Him for His actions
 10. Psalm 104:33 To praise Him for life

There are some songs that I sing during quiet times alone with God. Just as I pray in the spirit, I also have times when I sing in the spirit. With candles lit and just the voice I cry out to Him in song.

As I lift my voice in praise I’m not worried about the notes, or what words may come. I simply repeat whatever I hear Him saying to me. Last week, after Tom had gone to bed. I got up because I couldn’t sleep. Whenever that happens I grab my bible, light some candles to avoid the harshness of the overhead lamp, and I pray. During the day I had been studying the name Yahweh. So I started reading through some of the verses I had studied earlier. I read Exodus 33:19 that God told Moses that He would pass in front of him and call out His own name.

This short video is the song that I heard God singing to me as I was seeking His face on that quiet dark night.
I'm in awe of how God chooses to reveal Himself to us. I love to sing and I love it when He writes the words of the songs. So for as long as I am alive, at all times, in every season and stage of life, God is worthy of praise, and I have a reason to sing.

Do you sing? I’d love to hear your reasons!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hurting Heart

The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Back in 1999 my younger brother Bruce was mortally injured in an accident that crushed him between two vehicles. My family and I were told that he experienced no physical pain as he lay trapped in a coma in that hospital bed. And yet, I distinctly felt in my soul that he was in spiritual pain.

To be present with the Lord would be a joy, a comfort, a place of complete rest. Seeing him held hostage in a brain-dead body looked and felt like torture to me.

The obtrusive machines sustaining his life pointed out that he was not even in control of his own breath. Yes, I would have loved to witness the miracle of him rising from that bed to go on to live a full and complete life. What a testament to the power of God that would have been! His tragic death changed me as a person. It changed our family. It impacted the trajectory of my spiritual life. It caused me to reevaluate priorities. It compelled me to face the fact that life is not to be taken for granted.

Life is a gift. A fragile piece of artwork to be cherished.

With each milestone worthy of celebration I long for his presence. Recently as my siblings and I gathered to commemorate our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary his absence was palpably felt. Beholding my three remaining brothers with their wives and chatting over childhood memories I longed for Bruce to have experienced that moment with us.

As I contemplated my most intimate losses I considered the stillbirth of my first child, Patricia Kaye. I could hardly bear to  dwell on her brief life and the fact that a second stillbirth, our first son, Cameron Preston, followed ten short months later. Grieving my brother dredged up each memory.

Each loss was dissected, evaluated, weighed, and processed in my heart and in my journal.

I ripped out and burned journal pages, spilling out rage, hurt, and the rawness of my heart until I could not face it anymore. I made an appointment with a grief counselor and began to work on healing. Angry at the past, devastated by God, and yet trying hard to hold on to reality so as to be able to care for my children, my husband, and our home, my body was exhausted and filled with pain. My home and my heart were cluttered.

I couldn’t let go of my emotional hurts and I could not let go of items that were littering my home.  I longed for relief. A clean house seemed impossible and a clear head even more so. A few months after Bruce’s death I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

No longer localized as heartache from mourning, pain was ravaging my body and affecting the quality of my life.

Through therapy I realized that I was existing under a lifetime of burdens. I finally pinpointed the day that I was no longer allowed to unashamedly display emotion. It was at that moment that my childhood officially ended.

I was playing Barbie dolls with a friend. I thought I was being good. My schoolwork was done and my chores were complete. I didn’t invite Tracey inside because my parents were gone to visit my grandfather at the hospital. We were playing on the porch when my father arrived home visibly upset. I had no idea what I had done wrong. The first thing he said was that my friend had to go home and I had to come inside. We put away the dolls and she ran off. I timidly entered the house not knowing what was coming next.

His words are forever seared into my brain.

“Your PawPaw’s dead. And don’t you cry cause your Mama needs you!”

I don’t believe his intent was that I could never show emotion over my grandfather’s death. I believe he was simply asking me to help out with my little brothers. I think it was an attempt to lighten her load after losing her father. He could not have known that I would carry those words for the rest of my life. From that point on public tears of grief or sadness felt wrong but I didn’t fully understand why. Even when tears were appropriate to situations I faced as an adult, my brain clung to the instruction I’d heard at 12 years old, “Don’t you cry”.  

At age 50, I put all of the grief, hurt, and pain into a song. A song I’ve recorded, performed once, and have been unable to do again. Just like singing at Bruce’s funeral it emptied me of strength and reduced me to tears that took days to get under control.

Click on the arrow to listen

Healing came in stages. Rolling in and out like waves hitting tide pools found at the shoreline before high tide. As the tide wanes life is revealed and precious wonders within are free to be explored. I understand that the importance and the impact of words spoken to us and by us should never be underestimated. Emotions need to be expressed.

Even Jesus cried over the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus knew he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead and yet he cried. Jesus wept.

I see that scripture acknowledges emotions and therefore so should I. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Weeping may remain for a night but joy comes in the morning. I can testify that sometimes the nights of weeping stretch into decades when you don’t fully give yourself permission to heal. The morning is a long ways off for those of us who cannot weep in community.

I have the right to experience anointed times of weeping, mourning, and wailing with safe people unencumbered with shame. I have the right to feel my feelings. And I would advise others to feel their feelings to the fullest. To learn from them, to let tears fall nurturing new growth from within, and then to stand up and boldly move on towards healing!

Sunday, June 11, 2017


In my studies this week one of the verses that I pondered comes from Matthew 10:27. Which says,

"What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the rooftops for all to hear!"

I am grateful that God speaks to us in the darkness. The following thoughts came out of a dark night of the soul. Lifted from the pages of my journal and now in cyberspace for all to see. As I write I can feel God's healing hand massaging a balm into my heart and I am able to breathe. Stepping out of the shadows and into the Light stirs up hope in my soul. And I pray that these words can also awaken your spirit so you can shout when your daybreak comes.

My heart is like a mirror that's been shattered and pieced back together with duct tape and a wish.


That’s the word echoing in the chambers of my heart. Deep soul wounding pain spreading like a virus throughout my body.  

I can’t even remember the day it began. Some days it feels like I was born hurting. The shards of my heart have been crying out for decades demanding healing, retribution, justice, wholeness, and redemption.

The fragments have craved and sought after full restitution for every loss. Demand after soul splintering demand have strangled all hope for a better life.

Over thinking. Doubting. Fearful.

The world around me is viewed through an out of focus lens. My spiritual growth has been held hostage awaiting payback. I get freedom in one area only to discover three more areas of bondage decided to spring up. Is this warfare? Or is this the Holy Spirit revealing the areas that still need attention? In time I realize that it is God declaring His love for me. He loves me so much that He doesn't want me to be paralyzed by strongholds. So as I'm ready He prompts the next layer that needs healing to reveal itself. Prayer after prayer, dark night after dark night, with each sigh of the soul I get closer to understanding what is going on and why I have felt stuck.

Finally after a time of worship I awaken to the realization that I suffer the weight of an underlying belief that God owes me something. A thought that I’ve never acknowledged but somehow has followed me out of childhood and throughout my adult life.

God owing me? Such a ridiculous thought! God has no debts.

I am aware that thoughts like that are part of a scheme, nothing more than a strategy that can be used by the enemy to create cords around my mind (belief systems) that keep me in bondage.

Wholeheartedly and yet ever so slowly I hand over each fragment of my heart, soul, and mind to Him. I don’t want to fail in reaching the potential that I was designed for. I no longer want to meditate on hurts or offenses.

I chose to stop battling my circumstances and stand up to fight back against my true enemy.

God took on flesh and came to earth. There is a bloodline that has covered all the sins done to me and those committed by me. Praise and thanksgiving are due Him for His work on the cross. The sacrifice of Jesus paid my debts. His blood is priceless and yet He chose to spill it for me. He chose to sacrifice His life for each one of us so that we could have full lives.

He chose to overcome the world so that we could overcome all evil in the world. Nothing has the power to overtake us when we chose to act on the fullness of His spirit at work in us.

We may stumble, we may struggle, but we will overcome by faith. In 1 John 5:4 His word says, “every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” Every child of God is what it declares. That includes me and you.

Pain cannot steal what God has promised! Victory is a promise. Overcoming is a promise. Healing is a promise. The reward of eternity is a promise. Pain here on earth cannot snatch any of His promises from our hands. Give Him the fragments of your heart and let Him piece them back together with strength of His grace!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

3 Keys to a Joyful Life!

“Learn your lessons,
receive His grace,
straighten your neck,
and square your shoulders.
Walk like you've got a crown on your head
and a kingdom to represent.”
~ Sarah Jakes Roberts

I love this quote by Sarah Jakes Roberts. It reminds me that I still have lessons to learn, a crown to wear, and a kingdom to represent with my life. It also reminds me that my posture and my position affect my attitude before the Lord.

When I began my journey through the Psalms, I was simply seeking a better understanding of praise. I didn’t anticipate the lessons, His overwhelming grace, and a deep passion for more of His presence that would unfold in my life during the process. I didn't fully appreciate the changes that would lead me to desire a lifestyle of worship.

In the first verse of the first chapter of Psalms the lessons begin. We read in the New Living Translation;

Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice
of the wicked or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

Follow, stand, join. All verbs. Action words describing the progression away from godliness. Following the advice of those who are not led by godly principles is where it begins according to the psalmist.

Perhaps it starts with innocently following a celebrity on Facebook or Instagram. Which leads to a book or insight that sounds good and has a form of spirituality linked to it. Which can lead to standing with opinions and attitudes which cause you to compromise your values. Which can spiral into joining in with those who openly oppose everything godly and biblical. I don’t have a problem with celebrities. The point is where is that person leading you?
I used to think that psalmists were only meant to show us reasons to praise God. But, I have learned that is not their only function. They also serve as watchmen. They are prophets who warn us where our behaviors will lead. They are scribes who handed down godly wisdom in the form of poetry. They are warriors on the front line of battle preparing the way for the rest of us. They teach us how to worship not just with songs and prayers but with our lives. And the first lesson I gleaned from my journey through Psalms is about how to live a joyful life.

To experience a life of joy we must
follow, stand, and join in with God.

1. Follow His word.

I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws. 
Psalm 119:59

No matter what path you are on you can change direction and turn and follow Him. Make it a habit to read scripture daily. Try meditating on His word. Habits are not something you are born doing. Habits are about choices. Choose a habit of daily time in God's word so that when you hear it used out of context you will know the difference between a counterfeit and the real thing. "Our habits are the spine of self-control," as Ann Voskamp writes. We will not fall for ungodly advice when we have a daily habit of seeking out God's viewpoint. Stop and think about the direction of your life. Joy comes from a life of living for Him.

2. Stand with other believers.

Those nations will fall down and collapse,but we will rise up and stand firm. 
Psalm 20:8

We rise and stand firm together. Don't try to be a lone ranger Christian. Join a bible study or a prayer group. Find a mentor who shares your values. Research a topic found in the news or in an email before you pass it along. Don't unwittingly align yourself with opinions that don't line up with God's word. Who we stand with reveals what is in our hearts. Joy comes from a heart aligned with Him in community with others.

3. Join with those who praise God.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.  
Hebrews 10:24-25

Yes, we can pray and praise Him alone. But, oh the joy of corporate worship! Join in with those who pray for others. Join in with those who encourage others. Be a part of advancing the kingdom and stay clear of those who are skeptical that God's word still applies to us today. Don't give up going to church and associating with other believers. We do need our personal times of devotion because daily time alone with Him is sweet and helps us to plant deep roots. But, we also need time with others to grow and heal and find true joy in the context of healthy godly relationships.

Being wrapped, immersed, and filled with the word of God is where the blessings of intimacy, strength, peace and joy come from. There is no delight in relationships that draw you away from Him. There is no joy on a path that does not lead to a life that gives glory to God.

Who we follow determines what path we take. Who we stand with reveals our values. And who we join in with reflects the condition of our hearts. Our verse talks about the wicked, those who are sinners, and those who are mockers. In contrast we should seek out relationships with the godly, with those who are disciples, and with those who are maturing as believers.

There is courage in pondering the path we are currently on and honestly evaluating where it will lead. There is integrity in living out our values and not giving in to one compromise after another. And there is wisdom in choosing relationships that reflect the heart of God. And there is joy that comes when we follow the right path in the right way with the right people at our side.

To live a joyful life and experience the fullness
of all He desires for you
follow, stand with, and join in with godly people
to help you fulfill God's plan for your life!

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