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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The New Song

As I write these words, the whispers of a new season of Spring surround me. The new growth of tulips and the buds on the forsythia beckon me to the newness and all that a new life in Jesus Christ means.  The Song of Spring sings in my heart…and I remember my Grandfather Suderman.  He grew up in a house of music in an unlikely location in the middle of Kansas on a farm.
         I often think of him guiding his horses, pulling a plow making furrows in the deep, black rich soil.  He walked, step by step, guiding the plow.  What was he thinking as he looked up in the skies that spanned his view? Did he praise God in the field as he worked to provide for his family?
         My Mother tells me about the pitch pipe he blew to get the pitch to learn a new song, sitting in a wooden kitchen chair.  His melodious tenor voice sang the do-re-mi’s of the key and note-by-note he sang.  He learned all four parts, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, to teach the Ebenfeld Mennonite Church choir.
         One day, his intense concentration was broken when the chair tipped too far.  He fell in the middle of directing a song to the floor. His children could not hold back their laughter.  Grandpa loved new songs that proclaimed God’s glory. His rhythm was impeccable.  I played the piano for him as a child and felt his hand on my shoulder patting the rhythm. 
         Musicians look for THE new song.  A Christian faith is a singing faith. Have you ever felt discouraged with life when it becomes more than you can bear? This is the time to begin praising God, singing a hymn or praise song that brings life to our hearts.  A new song of praise renews the heart.
         God is all about ‘New’. The scripture speaks of a NEW creation, song, commandment, body, life, heart, mercies, covenant and Jerusalem. God is not about being a ‘fixer-upper’ but in the newness of our hearts and minds.  These new things can’t be bought. They can only come from God and following His Son, Jesus. 
         Songs underline each celebration in life’s important events – Happy Birthday, Silent Night, Twinkle Little Star, Lullabies, and Graduation.  Each moment of celebration needs a song to make it complete.  For years, after a baptism into God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we sang this chorus as an affirmation, “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, Not for the years of time alone, But for eternity.”
         What does singing praise to God do for us?  First of all, the oxygen we take in which is a breath from God in our lungs is expelled in a melody of praise.  Each time I visit my dear husband, I am amazed how the old hymns are his joy.  He snaps his figures, claps, and waves his arms and comments. Once he said, I wish I could sing!” He doesn’t remember often, but he remembers hymns of faith.
         For a time I enjoyed playing the piano and singing. Old age arrived with a vibrato knocking me off key. There are others more talented who play the piano. Suddenly the lyrics on the screen became vivid and the songs I have long heard – take on a deeper meaning.  With every change in life, I find comfort, hope and a new breath of God’s love in the lyrics.  A way of worship made new through God- inspired lyrics is now mine.  
         Then I find this verse telling me Our Lord God sings. Zephaniah 3:17- For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
         There is nothing more exciting to me, than the anticipation of learning and singing praise to God, face-to-face in Heaven.  As the years pass by and my loved ones who become absent from the body and present with the Lord, I remember this verse.  Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8. 
            Worshipping God becomes rejoicing with laughter and song and tears falling as the immensity of our Lord God becomes to us.  He comforts us with His words of His Holy Bible.
         A week ago, I posted a scriptural Snippet with this verse… They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, "Don't be afraid, I am here!" John 6:19-20.  After a phone call, I learned that my little brother was absent from his body.  The verse I chose 5 days before suddenly gave me comfort, "Don't be afraid, I am here!"  I praised God that day through tears for His timely comfort.
            This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  Revelation 14:3
         This verse paints a vivid word picture. I want to know this wonderful new song in Heaven and sing before the throne of God. My prayer is to be faithful to Him and be among the redeemed by the way I live on this earth. 
         I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2
         Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre; make music for him on the ten-stringed harp. Sing a new song of praise to him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy. For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.  Psalm 33:2-4
         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
         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! The Lord has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation! He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Psalm 98:1-3

         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. Join in the chorus, you desert towns; let the villages of Kedar rejoice! Let the people of Sela sing for joy
; shout praises from the mountaintops! Isaiah 42:10-11


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Walked Today...

        I walked…today. Walking with my Dad gave me a sense of belonging and home. I tried to match my strides to his and often fell behind. For years I tried to keep up my ‘short Dutchman’ Dad. I remember our last walk. His stride no longer exceeded mine. After seventy-five years of walking, his shortened breaths and weak heart impaired his stride. I matched my pace to his slower steps. This Dad handed out unconditional love and discipline from his heart. When I was eight years old, I couldn’t sleep.  Frightened by imaginary soldiers who might be lurking outside my bedroom windows in the dark, I cried. Dad took my hand in his and we walked outside to the back yard. Dad explained, “There is no one in our yard.” I felt so safe when Dad held my hand. 
         Mother taught me a song when I was sixteen that caught my heart. I Walked Today where Jesus Walked… We follow in the Footsteps of Jesus and our sinful hearts cannot keep up with His strides of purity or His incredible love. He walked on earth for thirty-three years. He taught love and adoration. He was betrayed and scorned, whipped and crucified. 
         How many steps did Jesus walk from the time he was a little boy in Nazareth until his last walk up Golgotha Hill? Did Jesus grow weary? Did he grow impatient with those He taught?  He carried a heavy cross, made even more heavy with our sins up the last hill?
         How did Jesus rest? Where did he rest? What was His purpose on earth? Ask Mary and Martha, ask the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. I often wonder what it would be like to walk where Jesus walked in Israel.  It is possible to walk where Jesus walked, but there is more to walking in Israel and being where He lived long ago.  We can walk with him now.  We can put our hand in His and walk in faith, knowing we belong to Him.
         Jesus knew the faith of Noah, Abraham, Enoch, Joseph, Jacob and all the faithful believers through the eons of history. Jesus treasures humility, trust, and faith. When we choose to follow in His footsteps and pick up his cross as we are commanded, Jesus smiles.
         When Jesus said, “It is finished!” as He hung on the cross. Our way to God was finished. Death will overtake us all, will we be able to say that the tasks Jesus gave us while on earth, and it is finished. When we follow Jesus, there are no exits from His Way for us.  Other pathways may tempt us to change our decisions to follow Jesus. Once we decide, God writes our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 
         I didn’t realize the real lesson that Dad taught me when I was young. Finally, it became clear, My Dad taught me to match my strides to his, as it was his way of pointing to the cross and with Jesus.
         Dad gave me a lifetime of challenge to walk with Jesus, each day and in so many ways.  And it takes a lifetime of walking in the footprints of Jesus to come to the portals of everlasting life and know the Presence of Jesus, face to face.
         As I write these words, I am thinking of my brother, Gene. I learned just hours ago, Gene is with the Lord as of today.  He no longer has physical difficulties; he was released from all the pressures and cares of this world.  Gene’s lifetime of walking with Jesus – is really beginning.
         Each time we pray, serve, give, and share Jesus in His Name, we walk with the Lord. Peace from above descends on our souls, even when we are misunderstood or shunned by others, for Jesus holds our hand.  When we love the unlovely and unforgiving, Jesus forgives us our trespasses and holds us even more tightly. When we encourage others, our faith in Him becomes ever more dear. When we pray, we bow before our Lord in humility, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.
         I may never see the Galilee River, or stand on Golgotha’s Hill, or view the rolling Jordan, but choosing to follow Jesus, is my ultimate desire. It isn’t the environment where His Love Grows, but in my heart, as I share with others the intense love Jesus has for each of us. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.Matthew 16:24
         Our walk with Jesus is forever and always new – a glorious adventure with Him who made us.  When I put my hand in His, I know I am safe forever more.
I walked today where Jesus walked, In days of long ago. I wandered down each path He knew, with reverent step and slow. Those little lanes, they have not changed, A sweet peace fills the air. I walked today where Jesus walked, And felt His presence there.
My pathway led through Bethlehem, Ah, memories ever sweet. The little hills of Galilee, That knew His childish feet.
The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes, That Jesus knew before, I saw the mighty Jordan roll, As in the days of yore.
I knelt today where Jesus knelt, Where all alone he prayed. The Garden of Gethsemane, My heart felt unafraid.
I picked my heavy burden up, And with Him at my side, I climbed the Hill of Calvary, I climbed the Hill of Calvary,  Where on the Cross He died! 
I walked today where Jesus walked, And felt Him close to me. (Geoffrey O’Hara)

Dedicated to D Gene Siemens


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

LOVE, Ever New!

        What a joy when I hear my husband say, “I love you!”  How many times have we have spoken these words in 65 years?  Our love story never ends. We see God’s plan in our love.  We are committed to each other because of God’s love. Sometimes my “I love you,” is answered now with a “Thank you!” 
         Some search to find expressions of love through the years. A gentle hug, roses and chocolates, a kind deed, and then I remember where loves come from – God is Love! (I John 4:8b) When we receive God, we truly find Love in our hearts, pouring out to care for others and serve others.
         Everything we know about love comes from God. The way we love is a pattern after God’s love.  His love is steadfast and unfailing.  Love is not a happenstance, it is a commandment. 
         Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Matthew 22:37-39.
         We wonder, are we to love the person who puts us down, disagrees with us, and the one who doesn’t appreciate us at all?  Yes, love that one!!!
         That is way too hard!  Love is being vulnerable. We can be and will be hurt, rejected and humiliated.  Yet, we continue to love, for in doing so we glorify God. We forget our purpose is not to glorify the ME, we carry around, but our Lord God.  Psalm 147:12-14 - Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your children within your walls. He sends peace across your nation and satisfies your hunger with the finest wheat.
         In answer to the question, Who do you think you are? John 8:53. Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me.” You say, ‘He is our God.’
         If we will not, cannot love God, we lack the quality of humility before the One who made us!  Love is a gift from God.  He loves us unconditionally.  Marketers sell us many products to make us more lovable and appealing. They can only deal with our outward appearance. They promise to make us appear young again. Yet we are destined to become old. It is God’s plan.
         One day someone declared me wise and I wondered why.  I looked in the mirror and saw the beginning of wrinkles, thinning gray hair and wondered if that equals wisdom?  I am the same inside as I was yesterday and the day before. Wisdom in us comes alive through humility and understanding of God’s Great Love.  Wisdom doesn’t descend upon us through potions and pills, but from the everyday giving of ourselves to living in God’s way of Love.  His love is Ever New. Love comes from praising God, renewing our minds, living in Him, and giving our hearts fully to God.
         The faithful love of theLord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23.  This is my hope.  In eternity past, the present, and eternity future, our Lord God is ever the same. He loves you and He loves me.  How do I know? 
         “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his One and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  Love begins with a relationship with our Lord in that He changes us, fills us, and we give Him the glory.
         In every situation in life, I realize God has a purpose for each of us. When I seek for understanding of His Grace I receive His Peace.  Each day brings another way to live and grow in the love of God.  Understanding His Great Love, Ever New, gives me stability and confidence for the challenges of the day. Each day, Jesus continues to express His love as an alternative way of living to me. All that is left for me is to make a choice.
         Jesus, What a Beautiful Name.  The lyrics I first heard brought me to tears of joy.
         You were the Word at the beginning – One with God the Lord most High
         Your hidden glory in creation – Now revealed in You, our Christ.
         You didn’t want Heaven without us – So Jesus, You brought Heaven down
         My sin was great, Your love was greater – What could separate us now?
         What a wonderful Name it is – The Name of Jesus Christ my King
         What a beautiful Name it is – Nothing compares to this
         What a beautiful Name it is – The Name of Jesus. (Fraser/Fielding)

         What is Love?  The first seven verses of I Corinthians teach us how to love and why it is important! 
         If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.