Still

The Perfect Gift - an Advent series

I’m joining with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday crowd, even though it’s way past Friday by the time this posts and I definitely took more than 5 minutes in writing.

Years ago I was home from college on Christmas break when I caught a bad cold. That same Christmas I was given a Mannheim Steamroller CD cassette (I hate to date myself, but it was a cassette). While feeling miserable and sleepy, this peaceful arrangement and hopeful lyrics were soothing to me. I listened to this song over and over and over, rewinding the tape and replaying it again and again.

Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…

Listen to it here; the video will begin at this song:

See why that was so peaceful and calming while I was sick?

If you ever go outside while it’s snowing, the world is hushed. All sounds are muffled, and, if you’re still enough, you can hear the snow landing on the ground or your coat in almost a shushing sound.

cat watching snowOne of the blessings of winter is the world slowing in hibernation. Tree branches are bare, flowers dormant, and cold temperatures outside keep us bundled under warm blankets inside. We need this slowing ourselves, from the busyness that sweeps us along with it.

Sleep, sleep, sleep, ’tis the eve of our Savior’s birth…

There are things we miss by racing about with our agendas and checklists. As we approach Advent, take time to be still. Sit in front of a fireplace or in a dark room lit only by the Christmas tree (whenever you may put yours up). Quiet the sounds of the TV and constant chatter – both inside and outside of your head.

The other song I find so calming on this album is Traditions of Christmas, written by Chip Davis to sum up all the warm memories that make Christmases past so heartwarming: cookies baking in the kitchen, a log crackling on the fire, laughter of family and friends nearby, the soft sound of snow falling outside, lingering scents of evergreen and cranberry, and the familiar strains of beloved carols. It’s everything I remember Christmas being as a child.

Dream, dream, dream of the joyous day to come…

If all Advent means is a baby born long ago, then there is no hope, no dream for the future. But it’s more than that. With Advent, we remember the birth in the past and look forward to God returning to earth to claim those who are His.

Are you ready to begin seeking him in earnest as we count the days toward Christmas?

***

I’m linking up with:

152 Insights to My Soul

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I don’t know what you’re doing

green teaMy husband is addicted to Lipton Diet Green Tea.

I suppose (full disclosure) you could say that I’m addicted, too, but not quite to the extent that he is.

So, when we go to Sam’s Club about once a month to stock up on green tea, we don’t just buy a case or two. We buy 10-12 cases. Of 24 bottles of tea. 10*24=240 bottles of green tea. Minimum.

I stopped by there tonight on my way home from work and grabbed a modest 9 cases to get us through a few weeks. Did I mention the addiction?

What I neglected to consider is that my trunk is full of boxes, so I ended up stacking the cases in my backseat. During the ten minute drive home the cases slid or fell over as I rounded several curves. With each plastic crunching crash, I cringed. And then sighed. Now my car – like my house and my life – is a mess.

(It’s not as hopeless as all that, and I’m reminded that my mom reads my blog and hurts with a momma’s heart when I talk about hard things. But I’m learning that I can’t always stay silent to spare her further pain. To all the mommas, your children are going to go through hard stuff in this life, both when they are under your roof and years after they have flown the coop. Of the joys and pains, heights and depths of being a mom, this is one of the lows).

Where was I? Oh, yes, the mess. There’s a lot going on that I cannot control right now. I can’t fix the problem in our basement. I can’t fix my husband’s chronic pain. I can’t fix problems with relationships. I can’t fix my heart. Etc, etc. It’s all way too much for me to handle. And lately, I’ve been not handling it in very destructive ways.

Who You Are

So, I’m driving home with cases of tea scattered across my back seat and Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Jimmy Needham’s version) playing through the speakers. I found myself asking God, how? How can I sing that your faithfulness is great? How is it great?

I know the answer as soon as I ask. It’s faith. It’s believing everything I know about God as revealed in the Bible – that he is true, that he is unchanging, that he is sovereign. It’s also God’s faithfulness, not mine that I lean on. I run away. I abandon him. He never leaves me. He never stops loving me.

And, so, tonight, this is where I am. This is what I can say: I don’t know what You’re doing, but I know who You are.

I had never heard this song before today, but that line hits home so perfectly and gives me the strength to hold on for today. And then one more day. And then another.

I hope you take the time to listen to this song. I hope it helps you find faith to trust what God is doing in your life.

I’m linking up with:

Day 27: Where your brokenness brings you

Part of crushing kingdoms includes brokenness, which is weighing heavily on me tonight. This song is several years old now, but between the lyrics and the visual picture in the video, it really hits home.

This is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you new.

And then there’s this lovely song by All Sons & Daughters

I am a sinner; if it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words, tangled in lies
But you are a savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful

We’re continuing the series – click the photo for the index of all posts:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 20: Though you ruin me

not_meaningless

My words fail me tonight. My thoughts are jumbled. My intentions for this post have blown away.

It seems that this has been a season of things being taken away. And some days I can trust in God and carry on, doing whatever needs to be done next.

Other days, much like today, I collapse into a puddle of tears.

And so, this is what I need to hear today. Perhaps you do, too.

Listen as Shane and Shane sing:

Though you slay me, yet I will praise you
Though you take from me, I will bless your name
Though you ruin me, still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need.

Not only is all your affliction momentary; not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But it is totally meaningful…don’t say it’s meaningless. It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore, do not lose heart. — John Piper

UPDATE: Dear friends, I realized from some of the comments (thank you for commenting, BTW!) that perhaps a little clarification is in order. I am not despairing. When I wrote this, I was tired, discouraged and a bit worn thin, but I shared it all to say, yes, sometimes it does get difficult, but holding onto hope in Christ is the only way through. If you’re worn and barely holding on, I get it, but don’t let go of God. Don’t lose heart. Love to you all,
Janice

Part of the #write31days series:
crushing your kingdoms

Day 18: Even still

Do you know the old hymn, It Is Well? If you click that link you can read a very heartfelt reaction I had to that song a little over a year ago. I also share the story behind the song, written by a man who lost nearly everything.

This morning, as we sang the song again in church, I had a visceral reaction. The words that really hung me up are in a tag added by another band recently.

TreeThe words?
“Even still.”

It is well with my soul.
Even still, it is well with my soul.
Even still,  it is well.

Why “even still?” Because I sing the song with excuses. Do you ever find you do that? We internally might sing something like this:

It is well with my soul, but I hate my job, career, major.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my roommate, spouse, boyfriend, family.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I could live in a bigger/smaller apartment, house it in a bigger/smaller city, town.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my body, hair, ears, voice, feet, personality.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I was married, pregnant, single.

Even still.

The reminder is that, yes, this world we are in is flawed and imperfect and filled with people who sin (including ourselves). People may grievously wound us, intentionally or not. Yes, we may not be satisfied with our station in life. We may never attain that dream we’ve clung to our entire lives.

Even still.

With our souls it can be most well. Even still.


crushing your kingdoms

This is part of a series of 31 days of Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

I’m also linking up with Testimony Tuesdays:

Holly Barrett

Day 14: Hear our hearts cry out

I’m just going to put this right here.

Seriously, though, this song by Vertical Church Band recently shuffled into play on my iPod and I ended up listening to it about five times in a row. From the first word, the focus is solely on worshiping God. I love that. Please listen to it. I think you’ll like it, too.

Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
And You reign victorious over all the earth
Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
Yes, You reign victorious over all the earth

Let Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done
Here on earth as it is in heaven
And to Your renown hear our hearts cry out
Singing “Holy is the Lord”

God of Glory see Your victory story
In the lives of those who gather at the cross
Rock of ages be adorned with praises
As Your people raise their voice in thanks and love

Focus with me on the true kingdom right now. Hear our hearts cry out – Holy is the Lord!
Do you have a favorite song that focuses your heart on worship of our God?

crushing your kingdoms

We’re continuing to work through the series this month. Click here to view all the posts in the series.

 

Day 9: Reflections on glory

This is a post I wrote a little over a year ago. I was reminded of it as we sang All Creatures of our God & King today in Karis Church. I’m sharing to focus on God’s kingdom today.

sky

Since the temperature has dropped a bit, I slipped out on the back deck tonight with a drink and my music to practice for Sunday morning.

If you’re at all like me, when you find yourself in a quiet space outdoors and the sky begins to kaleidoscope in hues of blue, purple and pink with the setting sun, you’re gonna look up and watch the sky at some point.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along

These are the words that floated through my ear buds as I watched a drifting cloud.

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice

And then I realized fireflies were dancing around me.

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship him in humbleness

Now the rhythms of the cicadas and crickets catch my ear.

Oh, doesn’t your breath catch sometimes with a glimpse of God’s glory?

I know there are times when God feels distant and you think your prayers don’t go past the ceiling. I know that sometimes there are hurts and pain that are mountains high and healing seems or is unreachable this side of eternity.

But the in-between times, when you just glance around and see a bigger picture than the one you usually focus on?

Glory.

Can you join me? If not now, then later today, or this week? Stop and look for God’s glory that is shining out around you.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
O Praise Him!
Alleluia!

20130629_195854 (640x358)

Praise! Praise the Father! Praise the Son!
And praise the Spirit, Three-in-One!

O Praise Him.
Alleluia!

Alleluia.

Want watch/listen to the whole song? Find it here.

What did you notice? Would you like to share it in a comment?

bold_crushing

You can read all the posts for this 31 day series here.

Day 7: Praying for grace

Secret GardenI’ve mentioned before that I really like the music of Indelible Grace (here, here, and here). Here’s another one that I haven’t been able to get away from all summer.

Due to some tough circumstances that my family has faced this summer, I find I’m more frequently clinging to the hope that’s found only in the Lord. When “everything” seems to fall apart around you, sometimes that all you can do is look to Him.

This song is like a chat with a friend, explaining what’s going on. Here’s what I asked God for, she sings, but the answer didn’t come like I thought it would. It was hard and it was ugly (or showed my ugly side), and I almost wanted to give up. There’s hope at the end, though. The reply of the Lord hints at the bigger picture. This is for your good. This is for My glory.

Read the lyrics as you listen. It’s an older style of English, not always easy to grasp. But, man, these lyrics really get to the heart of crushing kingdoms.

If you don’t have time to listen (but, really, make the time!), here are the lyrics. They’ll grab you and really make you think, if you’re paying attention.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And, by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”

Hang on to that hope, Friend, when you’re in the middle of the crossed designs and the laying low. Do not despair. Keep praying for that day when you’re set free from self and pride and schemes for earthly joy. When you (we) can fully seek our all in the Lord God.Light inside the garden

 

Crushing your kingdoms, one of the #write31days blog series:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 3: Before the Throne of God

I’ve spent much of the day continuing to extract water from our basement, so this is going to be short and sweet.

Today, look not at your own kingdom, but go before the throne of God.

We sing this song in Karis Church. I hope you enjoy it. My favorite is verse two:

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within.
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.

This was Day 3 of Crushing Your Kingdoms. Did you miss Day 2?
Keep going and read Day 4.

You can view all posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

His Peerless Worth

This song has been on repeat for the last day. Different bits of the lyrics hit me each time.

…Joyful choose the better part…

…Let his peerless worth constrain thee…

…What can strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?…the sight of peerless worth…

It’s so easy to focus on things of this world, even good things, and take our eyes off that which is peerless worth. God is beyond compare. There is none comparable; no one to be considered his peer.

And suddenly the things that have occupied my time and attention seem flat and shallow compared to his peerless worth. Soak in that as you listen to this song.

 

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Captivated by His beauty,
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King.

What can stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

’Tis that look that melted Peter,
’Tis that face that Stephen saw,
’Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

peerlessworth

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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