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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Valley of Fog

The day dawned with a bright sun in the sky.  It was one of those on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-forever spring day.  My dear husband sat at the breakfast table and peered outside, “The fog is really heavy today.  It is rolling in.  I can’t even see the buildings across the road,” he commented. Despite the laser surgery, glaucoma has moved into his eyes and made his sight less than optimal.  After 88 years, his brown eyes had almost lost the ability to see pictures on TV, in print or on the Ipad.  Losing the sight to even see clearly the pictures of his grandchildren and great grandchildren has been devastating to him although he quietly accepts it.

The same is true of my dear husband’s mind, for each day he wakes up deep in dementia. His mind falls deeper into the ‘fog of memory’.  He gropes for ‘knowing’ and awareness of the world around him.  He asks question after question and quickly forgets the answers and asks again.  He forgets faces and names of his beloved grandchildren.  He cannot remember the plot of the television stories we watch.  His steps are unsure.  He refuses  and then forgets to use the walker or a wheel chair.  He holds my hand and I lead him, ever more slowly, from the car to church on Sunday.

God has given us five senses in which to make sense of our world.  When our children were small, we saw them ‘learning’ mainly through the sense of taste.  Which sense is the most important?  Is it sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell?  A great part of a child’s charm is his or her ability to learn day by day about their world through the five senses. 

As a girl, I watched my Uncle Jacob Siemens going through life as a blind man.  He became blind through a series of accidents in his childhood.  One day he shared his book of incomprehensible (to me) lines of pin-pricked pages.  He moved his hand over the page and read to us.  When I moved my hand over his book page, I felt illegible bumps.  In awe, I watched him eat, as his wife proclaimed the mashed potatoes were at 3 o’clock and the meat was at 9 o’clock.  There was no bitterness in him, simply acceptance.  During family reunions he laughed with energy, perched on a white wooden chair with his three brothers. 

Uncle Jacob lived with blindness, not as a curse, but a part of living.  He sang, he praised God, he taught Bible School and he lived in a world of light – spiritual light. 

The loss of sight means not catching the glow of lightening in the night sky; the loss of a beautiful and color-filled Spring season; the reading of words on a printed page or the nuances of body language.  I never asked Uncle Jacob, but I often wonder what he ‘saw’ when vision was denied.  Did his imagination and mind-pictures compensate?

When I read verses in the Bible about the second coming of Jesus, the words create images in my mind.  What did the throne look like? Revelation 4:2-3 - And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it.  The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.

Or the sight of an angel in Heaven – Revelation 10:1 - Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire.

The gates and streets in Heaven are not to be equalled – Revelation 21:21 - The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

No one in Hollywood could produce the sights that the scripture describes to us that we will see one day through the grace and great love of God.

There is physical sight and there is spiritual sight.  Those who see the wisdom and the love of God, learn to see life through His Spirit.  There is no shortcut on this earth to learn this spiritual sight except by walking with Him.  Even as a child learns to walk – step by faltering step – we learn to walk in faith and trust.  When the next step is not visible, we walk with our hand in His…and He provides.  There are valleys of hurt that strengthen our faith.  There are deep rushing rivers we must cross and yet, our Lord is with us and carries us through the fog of doubt to the other side.

 How can we but praise our God?  We share in joy the blessings that become ours through Christ Jesus with others through encouragement.  So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  I Thessalonians 5: 11

And we ever sing….
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God... 

Into the darkness you shine
Out of the ashes we Rise
There's no One like You
None like You. (Chris Tomlin)
  The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.  The Lord loves the godly. Psalm 146:8
  At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind.  Luke 7:21

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Matthew 11:5


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


A ‘Cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die’ promise is a ‘finish-line’ commitment.   Robert W. Service said, “A promise made is a debt unpaid.”  A promise lightly given has an ‘unless’ wedged between the words and the action.

We learn as children how to keep promises from our parents – our earliest teachers.  If they promise something and the promise is not kept, we feel a sense of betrayal.  A new pair of shoes, a book, a trip to the park or an ice cream cone is serious business to a child.

A broken promise is accompanied by tears and crushed hope.  A kept promise is like hope bright as new leaves on a tree at springtime.  It has the scent of loyalty and trust deep within.

A promise is a solemn vow to attend and commit. The most solemn promise I made came several times in my lifetime.  My first promise is when I gave my heart to Jesus and sealed the promise with baptism.  Though in my life I have stumbled, I have always returned to that newness of heart that I experienced as an eight-year-old child.  Through the years God gave me ways to learn lessons of faith, truth, everlasting hope and joy. The lessons have not been easy.  A Promise is a fragile cord. A promise kept strengthens the cord, but a broken promise severs the cord.  The only cure for a broken promise is the gentle salve of forgiveness.

Each page in life turned and each chapter finished with my Lord brings me new learning that enriches me and prepares me for the promise of eternal life. 

Many times I sang the traditional wedding song in older days, O Promise Me, and wondered when I would find my love.  The verse by Clement Scott ends with these words: 
Hearing God's message while the organ rolls/Its mighty music to our very souls,
No love less perfect than a life with thee/ Oh, promise me! Oh, promise me!

In 1952, my dear husband and I made a commitment and a promise before God to love and cherish each other in sickness and health, richer or poorer, until death do us part.  Being in our 80’s brings the separation of death ever nearer.  We are anticipating the celebration of 63 years soon of that promise to each other. Our lives are richer with the blessing of four children and their spouses, twelve grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Each birth is a promise of new life and possibilities.

We just celebrated Easter, commemorating the resurrection and assurance that Jesus lives.  As we drove home through the streets after worship, we exulted profusely over every tulip tree in bloom and every daffodil that raises its joyful face to the sun.  Each new flower and blade of green expresses the greatest promise of all - resurrection.  Martin Luther understood the joy that the promise of resurrection creates in our hearts.  Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. 

In God’s creation of the seasons, He pictured the planting of seed beneath snow, birth and growth in Spring, fruit in the summer, gathering the harvest in the fall.  This is a picture of our physical and spiritual lives. 

When I was a child, I grew weary of school and learning.  It is a wonder I became a teacher. One day I found learning to be an adventure and books simply propelled me into the adventures.  It was in that moment I discovered the adventure in learning more of Jesus.  He is the author of promises and He is faithful…  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:9

The promises God makes to us create joy and peace and love in our hearts.  There is no other joyous feeling than belonging fully to God without holding back any part of my life than to know His promises are mine with no reservations.  In giving my all to Him, He has given life to me through Jesus Christ. 

The simple three words, I love you, paint a picture of promise. I LOVE YOU, God said when He created the universe.  I LOVE YOU, God said as He created each of us.  I LOVE YOU, God said to us when He sent Jesus to earth.  I LOVE YOU, God said as He raised Jesus from the tomb.  I LOVE YOU, God says each day as He provides daily sustenance.  I LOVE YOU, God says when He strengthens our faith and trust through grievous happenings.  How can we help but love and serve Him with all our hearts? 

Some of the mighty promises of God are these:
  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfareand not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
•  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29
  And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.  John 14:27
  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9
  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30 ESV


Monday, April 14, 2014

The New Song

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

My Aunt Irene wrote me last week that when her dad, my Grandfather, Gerhard Suderman died, the minister spoke about him singing a ‘new song’ in Heaven.  My grandfather directed the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church choir for many years after his father, Jacob Suderman directed the choir until he died in 1907.  When he came to this country Jacob Suderman began a country music school for the children to learn music. My Grandfather understood the importance of music.
One of my earliest memories was playing the piano for my Grandfather.  He was not a passive listener, but stood behind me tapping in rhythm on my shoulder.  There was no budget for music for his choir, one copy of a song sufficed.  He used a pitch pipe and sat in his kitchen to learn each song he taught his choir by the ‘Vor-sang’ method.  He each sang phrase and the choir repeated it after him, phrase by phrase. As Mom grew up, her one desire was to learn to play the piano to accompany her Dad's choir

The one song that has 'forever glory' for each of us is learning to sing a new song to the Lord.  It usually cannot be found in the Top Ten.  Being mere mortals, beloved by our Creator, we have to see the music.  How can we ever hope to create a song on this earth? I read the following verses and found the answer. 

His Presence is all around us. God exults over us with a song of salvation.  He sings a song of rejoicing over us with gladness and he quiets us with his lullaby of everlasting love.  His volume is turned all the way up as he exults over us in song. 

How: Sing a new song of praise to him; play skilfully on the harp and sing with joy.  Psalm 33:3
We have schools dedicated to learning to play music with heightened skill.  Many learn to play the piano when they are young.  These students learn the note tones and time values plus the names of the keys until they match up without effort. When frustration sets in, the learning may not always be joyful, especially playing scales and Hannon.  As we learn the language of music, we give praise to God the Father.  Playing music gives us another ‘voice’ to give Him our adulation.

Who: Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!  Psalm 96:1
Have you ever wanted to be in a group of musicians who play and sing with such abandon and to belong and not feel like an outsider? Can you imagine all the people of the world in tune and harmony whose only desire is to praise God with one voice?  When I see all the electronic instruments and tools to create a glorious noise on stage, I realize that if the ‘whole earth’ sings to God, the hills and the mountains would shake in rhythm and the trees would clap their hands.

What:  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:3
I have a file crammed with sheets and sheets of music.  So many songs have been written on this earth of all kinds.  God has given us the ‘what’ of the new song.  It is a hymn of praise whose lyrics are what God has done for us.  He created the universe, He set the world into motion, He created us, and He gives us the power of decision-making.  We can choose Him or not.  He liberated His chosen people. He sent his son, Jesus, to earth to die on the cross, be the bearer of sins of all people.  Why?  He sent Jesus because of His great love so that we might have salvation.  And we respond in song to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and put our trust into our Lord.

Where: Sing a new song to the Lord! Sing his praises from the ends of the earth!  Sing, all you who sail the seas, all you who live in distant coastlands.  Isaiah 42:10
Do we need a cathedral to give voice to our praise?  No.  Our Lord’s presence is everywhere about us and in our hearts.  No matter where we are we can lift up the new song.  He, who knows our thoughts and our ways, hears our praise.  

When: Praise the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. Psalm  149:1
When do we sing a new song?  We sing in the assembly of the faithful.  Is it any wonder that we celebrate and sing a new song with our brothers and sisters in Christ?  It is an encouragement for all of us to sing God’s praises for all that He has done for us. Why? As we draw breath – the song is sung when our heart belongs to our Lord and Father. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11.  The new song is joyful and a forever song whose melody sings us into eternity. 

Why:  Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power. Psalm 98:1
How many times are the victorious here on earth praised?  The victory on earth can be the winners of a ping-pong game, a chess game or a war.  It includes the many sports that seem to grow and the teams vie for victory. Victories on earth can be awarded in many ways…with prizes, money and fame. This world’s victories will not last and cower in the greatness of the victory of our Lord.  We sing a new song for we have salvation in his holy name.  What if we can’t sing?  Our new song comes from the heart and becomes whom we are.  The new song is sung through our walk with God in our actions and words. Will our voice be missed if we do not sing the ‘new song’?  God, who is omniscient and filled with glory, will know.

The lyrics by Tanya Blout ring through the ages:  I sing because I’m happy.  I sing because I’m free.  For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. 

Can we hide from our Creator, our great I AM?  Not on this earth or universe that He created.  There is nowhere to hide from God, not even in the delusion that God is not.  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 23:24


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sing to the Lord!

Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be Your glorious name

Matt Redman’s song washed over my soul like a benediction.  I counted the many blessings that poured over me and indeed, praised God.  Suddenly I remembered how many times a melody and lyrics reached heart-deep to give me strength and draw me to the Creator.

I remember the chubby-cheeked farm girl who desired nothing more than to accompany her Dad’s choir in the country Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church.  I remember the sound of hymns played on the upright piano lulling us to sleep as we grew up.  I remember learning the right from the left hand when I faced east, as I pictured the keyboard of the piano against the east wall of the living room.  I remembered Mom practicing  The Holy City, The Lord’s Prayer, The Lord is My Salvation and other classical solos so she could accompany my singing.  Now, as I walk the aisles of the grocery store in a new town, knowing the likely-hood of seeing someone I know, I sing softly a song that means more and more to me.  Goin’ Home, goin’ home, I’m just goin’ home.  Quiet like, some still day, I’m just goin’ home.  It’s not far, just close by, through an open door.  Mother’s there, ‘spectin’ me, Father’s waiting, too. Lots of folk gathered there, all the friends I knew….”

But let us go back to the beginning, as, In the beginning was God  When is the first mention of music in the Bible of music?  It is first mentioned in Genesis 31:27, when Jacob tried to steal away from his Uncle Laban’s house with his two wives – Laban’s daughters.  Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you deceive me? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps.
Nothing was mentioned until Judges 5:3, giving the purpose of music by Deborah and Barak.  Listen, you kings! Pay attention, you mighty rulers! For I will sing to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Groups of musicians are mentioned in Judges 5:11 - Listen to the village musicians gathered at the watering holes. They recount the righteous victories of the Lord and the victories of his villagers in Israel.  Then the people of the Lord marched down to the city gates.

Learning through music was first used by Moses, Deuteronomy 31:19.  So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for me against them.

David played for Saul in order to ease the tormenting spirit from the Lord.  Music was medicine – I Samuel 16:16 - Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”

The Book of Psalms written by David and his musicians, number 150. 
Psalm 96:1-5 -  Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!

I like the words, new song and these verses from Lamentations 3:22-23 - The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:3

Those who love God and His Glory understand his faithfulness and the love He gives to each of us and understanding from the heart bubbles over in song as revealed in His Word, and extends to today.  These songs are a testimony to who God is to us.  His Grace mirrors a melody of life, the rhythm of Grace and harmonious living here on earth.

Ask those whose songs to the Lord are written in God’s Word:  Moses and Miriam (Judges 5:1); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10); Solomon (Song of Solomon); Mary, mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55); Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25); David (2 Samuel 22:2-51 (Psalm 18).  The Bible contains the Songs of Heaven:  Song of Redeemed (Revelation 5:9-10 - 14:2-3) The Song of Moses and of the Lamb (Revelation 14:2-4); The Song of Many (Revelation 19:1-7).

Ephesians 5:18b - 19 …be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

There will always be music, just as always, God is.  He gives us a new song in our hearts each day that fills us with joy no matter what our age or station in life.  Why?  He is the author of life and love and Grace through Jesus Christ.  Where did music come from?  The rhythm of the seasons, the glory of his creation gives us a melody of life that continues to sing.

Sebastian Bach said, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes music.”