Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow, Stuffed Ballerinas and Reflection

So it's snowed a few times in "The Big D" this past month. Somehow I seem to miss it most of the time because I'm out of town (be it OH or south TX)...but yesterday, I did observe some huge, beautiful snowflakes falling in this southern city. These native Texans (no offense if you are one) are HYSTERICAL with "winter weather advisorys"/warnings/"artic blast" (if it's below 50*!) and the de-icing of the planes at DFW. CRACKS ME UP. We are at war in a number of 'theaters', we had an underwear bomber try to do us in on Jesus' birthday and this is college football Bowl week--and the top story on all the news is that it will "plummet" to 48*!!! I LOVE IT!


A completely un-related but almost more funny incident occurred when I reviewed my receipt from Tom Thumb (a.k.a. Randall's or Safeway in other parts of the country) on Monday...I confess I don't usually check it, but there was a particular sale that I wanted to be sure rang up correctly. Much to my confusion, I saw "STUFFED BALLERINAS" for $3.99 as one of the items. Hmmm...I did not buy, nor do I know what, a stuffed ballerina is. It's certainly not what was in my (they're worthless for re-using because they're so thin) Tom Thumb bag. By process of elimination it was one of these:

Apparently, somewhere in the giant, invisible world of UPC codes, someone entered "stuffed ballerinas" as what should come up when the UPC code for a candle-lighter was scanned. I'm sorry to admit I've thought long and hard about this and I can't for the life of me think of a it just makes me smile and I hope you get a chuckle out of it as well!


Today is New Year's Eve. Another year has come to a close. Everyone says it in their Christmas cards/letters, but I promise it's more and more true every year--time does FLY! It seems not very long ago that my niece was born (she's 2 now). It seems like last night when my good friend B had baby E...and it's been nearly 2 weeks. If time passes more quickly the older you get, then pretty soon I'll be ancient (never mind the fact I feel ancient sometimes...that's another post for another day...)

As I'm sure lots of us do, I try to be reflective at either the end of the year or the very beginning of the next...renumerating all the myriads of blessings from my gracious Heavenly Father...the prayers answered in ways I liked and asking for peace and patience for the prayers that were answered by "no, not right now" and/or "no, never." I'm guilty of this too, but why do we say "praise the Lord for answered prayer"???? God answers ALL our prayers--some with "yes", some with "no" and some with "wait"...but we seem to only give Him glory when the answer is "yes"...I know I'm very bad about this.

The Bible says in Psalm 116 (these verses are from The Message translation):

1 -6 I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.

Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn't know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
"Please, God!" I cried out.
"Save my life!"

God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

7 -8 I said to myself, "Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you've been rescued from death;
Eye, you've been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."

So whether it's today, tomorrow, this weekend or in the next couple weeks, let's spend at least a few minutes remembering God's faithfulness to us this past year. Though things like jobs and friends and any number of situations may change, He never does. He is the same today, tomorrow and throughout the rest of our lives, all praise to Him!

I may not know what a "stuffed ballerina" is, but I know the one and only God, and after it's all said and done, I think that's really all that matters.

Happy 2010, everyone...may it be a year filled with God's best blessings on us and our families, and may we be ever watchful for those blessings ready to give Him the glory!

Friday, December 25, 2009

...A Child is Born!

Every Christmas morning since I can remember, my Dad has read THE Christmas story from Luke 2...always it was in this version, so that's what I'll share with you...Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours! We have so very many things to praise our Infant Savior King for!

Luke 2

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

For Unto Us...

Isaiah 9

6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

As songwriters and poets have testified over time, there’s something very special about a White Christmas. For us Christians, there are such eternal analogies within this beautiful wonder. Sitting inside the warmth of my parent’s house in northwestern Ohio one Christmas morning, I looked with amazement on the many inches of pure white snow. I couldn’t help praising our mighty God for the cleansing power of His saving blood over the blackness of my sin. May we never forget the miracle of salvation that began on earth with a tiny baby whose birth we celebrate during the Christmas season. May we be often reminded of this life-changing truth each time we delight in the pleasure of clean white snow!

“O Loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again…sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Ps. 51:1-2, 7 TLB

A Christmas Snow

The clean beauty of the snow

Silently covers all the earth

Much like my Lord did show

His love, which gives to me my worth

For as sparkling and pure

As untouched snow

Is the state of my heart,

Because to Calvary He did go

Unspeakable beauty,

Unfathomable grace

Unthinkable mercy

You died in my place.

This gorgeous reminder

Of your cleansing salvation

This snowy wonderland’s

Such a magnificent creation

Thanks, Lord, for the pleasure

Of a world so crystal white

But so much greater is the cleansing

That made my heart aright

This white Christmas gift

Outside and within

Praise floods my heart

Where can I begin?

May I ever praise you

For the cleansing of my soul

As I gaze at the beauty

Of this freshly fallen snow!

Because He Came

While all these things are wonderful parts of the Christmas season, there is so much more to this holiday! You see, if Jesus hadn’t come, we would have no Easter—no cross—and therefore no salvation! So while we’re celebrating the wonder of this season, let’s remember that the Greatest Gift ever is Jesus, and He desires to have first place in our hearts. He came so that we would be His—let’s live like we are and tell everyone we know how our lives are different all because He came!

“’And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’.”

Because He Came

Because He came that holy night

We can now know His awesome power and might

Though helpless as a baby on that night long ago

Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus never succumbs to His foes.

Because He came we have the greatest gift

Emmanuel, God with us—gives our spirits a lift

For this tiny baby grew up to be the Man

Who died to provide salvation to every woman, child and man.

Because He came we can have such hope

No matter how painful life may get, we can always cope

For in His grace and His mercy His love He imparts

We need only be willing and open our hearts.

Because He came there’s life after this

If I didn’t say this, I’d be so remiss:

What have YOU done with God’s greatest gift?

Have you openly received and partaken of it?

Or have you sealed up your heart as tight as a drum

Placing the Gift on the shelf so it’s touched by no one?

Oh surrender now to receive His grace

The forgiveness you need is found in His face

God’s greatest gift, Jesus, can be yours now—forever

No matter what you do, His love you can’t sever!

Because He came, the world’s never been the same

Nor our hearts, for His gift eternal changes have made

So now we can say “Merry Christmas” all because He came!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What a God!

"What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it."--Psalm 18:30, The Message

What a great promise this is: "Everyone who runs TOWARD Him makes it" (emphasis mine). We don't have to run all the way to our Heavenly Father; we just need to run in His general direction. And we will make it!

The last post spoke about how weak I was last week...I was having severe migraines and then in the middle of it all, needed to sight-read and play 2 different concerts' worth of music (after not playing for more than 20 minutes in the past 6 months!). Truly the Lord did prove strong in my weakness. I not only made it through all the rehearsals (4) and concerts (4), but I did it (for the most part) headache-free, and completely migraine-free. All praise to Him!

I know there is no way I could have made it through last week/end without the prayers of many brothers & sisters in Christ. I was keenly aware of my utter and total dependence on Christ for the ability and strength for each note and each measure. There is no doubt that any good in me, any delightful or pleasant sound that I made with the oboe, was ALL HIM and none of me. I'm just thrilled He chose to use me as a vessel! It was so fun to be back where my heart is, the music ministry of my church, if but for a short time...obviously I so much wished it wasn't due to the tragedy in the life of the other oboist.

Most of my life, I have been making music of one kind or another (singing, playing piano, playing flute, playing oboe) in the church. The first time I think I sang in church for "special music" was when I was 5 and my brother M was 3.5. We sang "Trust and Obey".

Indeed, when Fibromyalgia caused me to have to stop participating in my church's choir and orchestra, it took many months for me to become comfortable in my new role of "pew/congregational member". It was a very strange feeling - as if I didn't belong. I admit that I even stayed home and neglected attending church, choosing instead to listen to the service in the comfort of my home. I'm glad to say the Lord has gotten me over that "hump", though, and I enjoy my "bird's eye" view of the platform from the balcony during the 8:00 a.m. service each Sunday.

And even now, as I remember back at the wonder and sheer beauty of making music with such talented musicians last weekend, I have already begun to miss it. Yet I know, for whatever reason, for however long this season is in my life, the Lord wants me to "just" be part of the congregation. I do not pretend to understand that, and I certainly wasn't able to explain it to all those that asked me where I had been these several years (i.e., why hadn't I been to choir or orchestra). Some other time I will post more in detail about how Fibro impacts my life, but for now, the biggest and hardest thing I have had to relinquish is my participation in orchestra and choir at church.

I'm headed in another direction now, on another journey...a journey to who I am becoming--and that is no longer defined by what part I play and/or sing. I admit it's been difficult to find myself at times without music, since it's been such a huge part of my life - and form of worship - for as long as I can remember.

But I praise the Lord for the opportunity to worship and lead in worship last weekend, and for the fun that was had just being a part of that 'world' again. How sweet is very faithful He is!

WHAT A GOD! To Him be the glory - He has done, and will continue to do, great things!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

His Strength is Perfect

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

These verses have always been a precious promise of God’s provision of strength when we are at our weakest. These verses are also a great way to encapsulate my week thus far.

Due to a family emergency, the oboe player at my church is unable to play for the 4 special music services/concerts this Sunday (and the 3 rehearsals between Wednesday and Saturday for Sunday)…she asked me to play in her place and I am doing my best…but it’s going to happen only by God’s grace! I have not been playing much at all, so to sightread music this ‘late in the game’ is not easy, nor is it something I’m comfortable with when it’s broadcast on radio, TV and internet!

But, then, none of this is about me! God in His sovereignty knew the tragic circumstances for my friend that would cause her to need me to play the oboe/English Horn parts. I don’t understand, nor does she. But we know God has a reason, so we trust Him!

Please pray for the H family, as they bury the second (adult) sibling/child in 4 years on one side of the family…the extended family is scattered and will be traveling for the funeral and there is much bad weather in the way.

I praise the Lord that He is sufficient—His grace, His strength, His sovereign timing, and His peace!

To God be the glory!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretty as a Picture!

I am very excited to share the Etsy "store" of one of my fave college profs, Dr. Charles (Chuck) Clevenger. He's an amazing artist and has just released some of his most popular prints in the form of note cards. His work is amazing!

Dr. C (as we call him) is such an inspiration. He is a gifted pianist and watercolorist, but perhaps his greatest gift is that of being an amazing teacher. He was one of the most encouraging of all of my great profs at Cedarville. It was ONLY by God's grace and Dr. C's generosity that I passed Aural Skills (ear training)! That was by far my hardest series of courses in my music degree curriculum.

Thanks to the technology of Facebook, I have reconnected with Dr. C. and am eagerly awaiting my order of his beautiful note cards in the mail...just in time to write Christmas thank-you notes! :)

So check out Dr. C's store--enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Far

It’s that time of year when many of us write Christmas cards/letters and reflect on what has happened in our lives and the lives of our family over the past year. In the vein of feeling reflective, I wanted to share this poem that I wrote for my thirtieth birthday, an undisclosed number of years ago! Every word is still true, and I praise the Lord for putting up with me and for patiently teaching me that He hasn’t brought me this far just to leave me. I can trust Him, and for today, that is more than enough!

What You’ve Done So Far

What You’ve done so far, my Savior

Is to free my soul from sin

Your life was the price You paid

To cleanse me from within.

What You’ve done so far, my Father

Is to love me as Your own

A love unconditional and freely offered

It’s transformed me—given me hope.

What You’ve done so far as Provider

Is to bless me abundantly

Family, friends—so many loved ones

My heart overflows with thanksgiving.

What You’ve done so far as Rescuer

Is to save me from myself

You kept me safe within Your arms

Even when I denied needing Your help.

What You’ve done so far as Healer

Is to touch me powerfully

Though the pain still often surfaces

You’re right here—comforting me.

What You’ve done so far, my Dearest Friend

Is to teach me loyalty

Despite my fickle heart and changing moods

You’re always here—You never leave.

What You’ve done so far as Shepherd

Is to tend me with such care

Though I’m wayward and stubborn,

You lead me, lovingly keeping me near.

What You’ve done so far as teacher

Is to use the school of pain

The lessons learned have hurt, yet honed me

My suffering has brought me gain.

What You’ve done so far as Grace-Giver

Is to free my mind from guilt

You’re patiently teaching me a different way

And I know I’m learning still.

What You’ve done so far has changed me—

I’m not where I thought I’d be

Yet Your plan is better always

Make me content to follow Thee.

What You’ve done so far, my God Almighty

Words cannot adequately express

This verbose writer with ready pen

Is speechless in Your holiness.

What You’ve done these thirty years

My mind can scarcely comprehend

By Your grace You are my Savior,

Shepherd, Teacher, Rescuer, Friend.

Father, God Almighty, Healer, Provider—all You are

No matter what You’ve got in store for me

I’ll remain amazed at all of

What You’ve done so far.

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Ps. 146: 1-2 NIV

“When my heart my grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by your righteous right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Ps. 73:21-26, 28 NIV

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10 NIV