Hymns of Joy

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I sell real estate for a living.

Recently, while leaving a closing, the rain started to come down and the buyer looked at me and said “showers of blessings.” I loved it. An old hymn I hadn’t remembered in so long but I still know by heart.

There is sunshine in my soul today…what a glorious delight. These words bring back so much to me and flood my mind with loving memories.

40 years later, I still remember sitting in church with my parents and singing the standards. I’m glad I have that memory. I’m grateful for songs of joyful praise.

I’m grateful.

 

A crisis of Faith

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I’m having a crisis of faith.

Not my faith in Jesus Christ, but my faith in organized religion. A consistent string of disappointments in church leadership, moral failings, combined with church politics have led me to the conclusion that a perfect church is not a reality in this world.

This strikes me as tragic considering how many denominations tout themselves as the one true church. The modern day church is deeply flawed by the interference of humanity who wants to impose their will and theology upon parishioners while behaving in a rather un-Christ-like manner.

I do not pretend to judge anyone but I do judge the church politic which has neglected to meet the mandates set out by Jesus to “Go Into The World” and preach. It is so disheartening. Power corrupts. Money corrupts. God is lost in the details of keeping the doors open.

My crisis is limited to the church but not to Jesus. My faith in Jesus Christ never wavers. It is the foundation of my soul and the one thing I am certain of in this worldly realm. Sadly, until Christ returns, I may be waiting on a home in which to worship.

Praying with the faithful at a little country church…

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Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Daniel 9:17-18

My parents were faithful members of a country Baptist church. They believed in the power of prayer.

Every Wednesday night they attended a service with Bible study followed by the prayers and petitions of the faithful and sometimes not so faith-filled. There were no time limits. If you needed prayer, they stayed and prayed.

Some nights I sat there astonished at the requests. Yes, they prayed for someone’s boils and another’s warts, but they also prayed for life and death situations and believe me when I tell you…they prayed in earnest. Whether it was what we might consider trivial or life threatening, each prayer was met with sincerity and seriousness.

My Dad used to say, “Not all prayer requests are the same, but all requests are to be considered and lifted to the Lord.”

I like that way of thinking. Too often we believe that the trivial isn’t worth bringing to the Lord but in fact, everything is worth asking God’s help to resolve.

Bring your petitions to God and sit back and watch what happens. It might not be what you expected, but it will be more than you can imagine. I have seen the power of prayer at work.

A little country Baptist church remains faithful to God’s call and someone is comforted.

God is good…

Amen.

Sometimes there are no answers…

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This past week has been a hard one for people of faith.

In the one place you expect sanctuary, respite, and acceptance is the Church. This was not so in South Carolina.

Nine precious people were overwhelmed by extremist hatred and paid for it with their lives.

It doesn’t make sense. There are no answers. God did not cause this.

I do know this…

Hate will not win. Darkness is overcome by light. Love never dies and God still sits on His throne.

I look for a brighter and better tomorrow but I won’t forget the sacrifice of so many.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

Born Again…

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I am not afraid of birthdays. I embrace them. Today, I celebrate my 61st.

Many years ago, I was sitting at the funeral for one of my dearest lifelong friends, Paul Marshall May, and it just struck me that I would never complain about getting older. He was a young man who would not live to see his very small children grow up and enjoy years with his family.

I think of Paul often and I miss him dearly but I honor him on my birthday as a way to remember that our days are numbered as we wait to be cross over Jordan and head homeward. Paul was so full of the joy of life and while cancer robbed him of his earthly days, his faith guaranteed him an eternity of birthdays. His legacy is his faith, his family and the beautiful music he could create on the church organ. Paul was amazing.

We grew up in church together with our families and know what it means to be born again. On each birthday, on each day, I too am born again. I walk one step closer toward Jesus and that is just all right with me.

Happy 61st birthday Paul and thank you Jesus for the many gifts you have given to me…but most of all, for the gift of grace.

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

The Red Doors – Lent 4

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I love a red church door.

In the more traditional religious denominations, a red church door was considered a symbol of entering into worship, into the presence of God, through the blood of Christ, the sacrificial lamb of God.

The church has historically been a place of refuge from the evils of the world both real and perceived. It remains so today.

I urge you to find your red doors. The church is not perfect but it is a place of peace and a refuge from the highs and lows of life. It is a place to share joy, peace and love. It is a place of reflection.

Most of all, through those red doors you will find God waiting to wrap you in love and spread His never-ending grace upon your weary soul.

Enter in…

Tell me the old, old story…

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I love singing hymns in church. But, I truly love old hymns…the standards of our faith.

I was baptized in the Episcopal and Baptist churches but I was raised a Southern Baptist. However, I returned to the Anglican faith many years ago where I enjoy the smells, bells and liturgy of the more solemn high church. My son-in-law is a die-hard Baptist and will be till the Lord calls him home. I can respect that. We both have our convictions. We both enjoy our church “home”.

The one thing we do share without question is our love for hymns. It’s not just the old standards but also the hymns sung up to and including the more contemporary songs enjoyed by many churches.

It often goes back to our conviction about organized religion.

I have debated the merits of one “religion” over another with priests and pastors throughout the years. Some are convinced that their brand is the “one true church” and holds the promise for salvation. I disagree.

Here is what I believe: I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe especially in His word…”Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. John 14:6

There is no one true church. There is only one truth and that is that Jesus is the way to salvation and grace. Whether you enjoy it in a formal high church or in a contemporary worship service is irrelevant. Whether you speak in tongues or you sit quietly without movement. It’s really all about Jesus.

Music simple serves as a portal to our souls and enhances our worship experience. That is one thing on which we can all agree.

 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure;

Save from wrath and make me pure.

 

Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

 

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

 

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyes shall close in death,

[originally When my eye-strings break in death]

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

 

Rock of Ages

By: Augustus Toplady

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Falling Back…

home-top-photo-st-marg-church_22I love fall. Just as I watch the sky darken, the leaves change into a variety of majestic colors and the earth prepare for frost, fall signals a time of reflection for the past year and an awareness of the coming Advent season.

In short, fall is my favorite time of the year.

Each Fall I travel to the Blue Ridge and I return to the beautiful mountaintop church where my daughter was married. It was the last time my entire family was together before losing my Mom to cancer. I take a moment to go inside and sit on the very pew I shared with my parents and thank God for loving memories. My favorite is when Dad held my hand as my daughter walked down the aisle to meet her groom. Dad gave me a gentle squeeze as he asked me if I was OK. It was a loving gesture and so typical of my Father.

When I sit in that pew, I can still feel his presence although Dad has since joined Mom and gone home to glory. It’s a great memory of a happy time. If my earthly father was so amazing, how much more wonderful will it be to meet my heavenly Father?

As the air turns crisp and the leaves begin to glide down to the ground, I am reminded of my continual growth and change as I work toward a more mature faith. There is so much sin to release and so much good to reflect upon. God’s grace is sufficient and He guides me like a falling leaf and catches me safely in His arms.

For another season, I soar in His love and I look forward for what is yet to come.

Pick Me…

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For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you…1 Thessalonians 1:4

No matter your age, there is always something thrilling about being picked or chosen.

Every summer our church allows the members to submit favorite hymns which are then selected by our music minister to be used during a Sunday service. At the start of the summer, I submitted three hymns and I have waited patiently for months to see if one of my choices made the cut.

Actually, I didn’t wait that patiently.

I would hustle in each Sunday and pick up the bulletin and quickly peruse it hoping to see my name. To be honest, all the hymns previously selected have been great but for some ridiculous reason, I wanted one of my choices to be sung. There is no rational explanation for my competitive behavior.

Yesterday, I rushed in to church and was thrilled to see my song, “Be Thou My Vision” as one of the choices for the service. I instantly behaved like a juvenile and was thrilled to the core. Such a silly girl. My family was thoroughly amused.

What is it about us that we need to feel special? We think we need to be picked. Truth is, we are already chosen. God chose us first…He knows the hairs on our head and He wove and knit us in our mother’s womb. How much better can it be than that?

I enjoyed the hymn but I reminded myself that what is most important is to worship the One who chose me. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son that we might know we are beloved. That is truly a concept I can grasp.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

What’s in a name?

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Elvis has left the building…

That is historically what promoters used to say at Elvis concerts to encourage fans to depart. Sadly, I think today we could say that about the modern church.

Have you noticed the proliferation of churches that have unusual titles? Cornerstone, Summit, and Fellowship styled names are replacing churches that have Christ. God, their chosen denomination or saints on the signage.

We are “branding” and marketing church but forgetting who started it all – no crosses, no hard reminders of a life well lived and a sacrifice made for all.

I do believe in sharing the good news but that means sharing the whole story of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The story to be shared may get messy but it has a great ending!

The “message” today is more about good news, prosperity and a rock star quality musical performance. They are bringing people in by the thousands.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this. I find it sad that the emphasis is on the experience while downplaying  the reality.

Is it me or has Jesus left the bulidng?

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
There’s just something about that Name.
Master, Savior, Jesus,
Like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Let all heaven and earth proclaim,
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s something about that Name.