Hear the Bells

 

“And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God’s not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

 

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” poem by Longfellow (and later converted into a Christmas carol)  is a beautiful reminder of the hills and valleys we travel through in this world. Written during the Civil War, and after the death of his daughter, despair and grief were Longfellow’s  focus in the beginning. He couldn’t see God and he became hopeless. He found no peace and felt no goodwill to men. This poem was written in 1863 yet the words still speak strongly today.  

Even in our darkest days, God is still with us and brings us out of darkness and into His light.  Longfellow heard those bells and he was reminded that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  His despair turned to hope and thanksgiving. The peace that rang out with those church bells is the same peace offered to us.  It is a gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Church bells are one of my favorite sounds.  One day when I was traveling, I stopped by this old painted church to take pictures.  I pulled into the empty parking lot, and right when I got out of the car the church bells rang out the hymn, “Blessed Assurance”.   I froze. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in awe remembering that we do have a blessed assurance that was given to us that Christmas morning so long ago.  That assurance brings peace, hope and goodwill to men.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;” 2 Corinthians 4:8

 

photography of black hanging bells during daytime
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PRAYER

Lord, as I listen to Christmas hymns this season, help me to stop and meditate on the beautiful messages of peace and goodwill to men that they offer. Let the words speak to my heart his Christmas season and all throughout the new year.

IN THE MIDST

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 “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess 5:16-18

These words from Paul are meant to motivate us as Christians. He wants us to remember that these three things are the will of God in Christ Jesus for us:  to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances.

Many people struggle with this exhortation when the circumstances they are facing are difficult.  We tend to take the words “rejoice always” and place our own meaning on them. We find ourselves asking, “How can I rejoice when I am going through this?”  It’s easy to rejoice when things are going well, but understanding how to do the same when things are difficult is something else entirely. We must remember the very important preposition – IN. We are not called to rejoice FOR the circumstances, but we are called to rejoice IN them because we know we have a God who loves us, who is walking with us through it, and who has suffered for us. We can rest in the promise of 1 Kings 8:57, “The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us.”

In the midst of our circumstances, both good and bad, we can give thanks.  We give thanks in them not for them. Again, we can do this with the hope and assurance of God being right in the middle of them. When we are weak, He is strong. When the burden is heavy, He is there to carry it. When there is a joyful circumstance, He is there to rejoice with us.

Paul knew we would struggle with this, so he gave us instructions: Pray without ceasing. Pray consistently. Stay in the Word.  We have to keep our relationship with the Lord strong and spend time in prayer and in His Word daily so our dependence, our rejoicing, and our thanksgiving will come naturally…always.

 

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 104

 

 

DEVOTION: JOY TO THE WORLD

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“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you, is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

 

Joy to the World, the Lord is come…

What joy and what gladness the birth of Jesus brought to this world.  He came into a world of oppressed and hopeless people.  He came to bring them the joy of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins- a joy that could only come from a Savior, Christ the Lord.

 

Let every heart prepare Him room… 

To experience the full joy of Jesus we must prepare a place for him. It is more than just opening our hearts to him.  It is about inviting him into the darkest areas of our hearts – it’s an invitation with a purpose.   We must open our hearts fully to him, letting him into the parts of our hearts we may be trying to hide.  Perhaps it’s where anger or hatred live.  We can’t just let him into some places in our hearts, he needs to go into the depths of them.  We give our hearts, and our lives, in faithful surrender to the one who can save us and heal our broken hearts.

 

And heaven and nature sing… 

This joy, this unspeakable joy, is expressed throughout the heavens and earth.  Open your heart and listen.  The angels that sang that night are the same angels that sing over us today.

 

Open your ears…open you hearts and feel the great Joy!

 

 

 

 

DEVOTION: THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

The Little Drummer Boy may be a fictional character, but his story is one of faith, humility, and love.

“Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum”

There was a newborn King to see. His fellow travellers were bringing their finest gifts and he had no gift to bring that he felt was worthy to give a King. He was expected to bring his finest gifts too, but he was a poor boy with only a drum. He failed to see that the drum was the very gift that God had given him. God gave him the ability to present a special gift to the newborn King – one that only he could give.

“I played my best for him, pa rum pum pum pum”

God gives us our talents, our skills and our gifts, so we can serve Him. He gives us our “drums”. He desires for us to come to Him and play these drums. He wants us to play our best for Him.

“Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum”

When we use the gifts that God has given us to serve Him – when we play our drums,when we play our best – He smiles at us too.

“Me and my drum”

What is your “drum?”

Are you playing your best for Him?

Let the Wind Take Hold

white windmill
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Our minds are like the tallest tree where the heaviest and strongest winds test the strength of the branches. Our thoughts are the many leaves attached to each branch. Some thoughts gladly let the wind take hold of them and send them either soaring in the rush or floating gently down. There are those others, though. The thoughts that are stubborn and shrewd. They hold tight with all their power and refuse to let go no matter the wind force. These are the ones we dislike.

We can’t see the wind just like we can’t see our thoughts. However, we can see the effects of the wind. We can also see the effects of our thoughts, and feel them as well. The Bible tells us to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” This does not come easy for a lot of people. However, we know that we are called to do it. It is for our benefit that we learn to do it so we can protect our minds and self from where those stubborn or dark thoughts can potentially lead.

The “wind” is there to help us let go of them. Psalm 104:4: “He makes the wind his messengers.” Our help to battle is in the “wind.” Stop fighting and let it take hold.

SURVIVING GUILT

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When I was first told that I wouldn’t have to do anything else after the Lumpectomy (no chemo, or radiation, etc.), I was elated…at first. Guilt came next.

Guilt is a powerful emotion that has a way of sneaking up on you. I guess, for me, you could call it survivor’s guilt. Before you ask “why would she feel guilty over that?” Know this- two years ago a friend of ours lost her battle with colon cancer. Tomorrow a former teacher of mine will be buried after losing her battle with ovarian cancer. There are others in my life who have battled and won and others who are still in the process. All of them had to go through so much just to have a chance at another day.

So, why did I get a free pass? This questioned plagued me for days.

I was talking to a very wise young woman about this and she asked me:
“what makes you think you got a free pass?”

She reminded me about everything I have had to go through with Melanoma and other skin cancers…all the skin checks, blood tests, xrays.

Then she said something that I will never forget: “Nobody gets a free pass”

She is right. Nobody gets a free pass.

We are all fighting something whether it’s a physical illness, an emotional issue or a mental illness.

We are all in a fight. We are just in different battles.

All Out of Love

I took myself out to lunch after the Easter service yesterday. In the booth next to me was an elderly couple, dressed in their Sunday’s best, who sat and ate their meals in complete silence. They ate, stared out the window, stared at each other, but never once did they speak. As I witnessed this, I thought “I hope that my husband and I never end up like that – where we run out of things to say to each other.”
When the waitress came by to hand them their check, she told them that she said, “see you next week.” I realized that this couple probably comes here every Sunday after church. It’s their routine. I smiled at this thought. As they got up to leave, the man went over to his wife to help her out of the booth. He then grabbed her purse and put it around his shoulder. He put one arm around her shoulder, and held her hand in his hand. He was helping her, guiding her frail body that obviously struggled, holding her steady as they walked. You could see the love he had for his wife permeate through these gestures. As I witnessed this, I thought to myself, “I hope that my husband and I will be just like that one day.”
This whole exchange reminded me of our relationship with God. Sometimes it seems that we are sitting in silence with Him. We can’t hear Him and it feels like He doesn’t hear us – just like we are this couple. Just like this couple, many of us have a routing to spending time with Him.
Love Stories Isn’t it beautiful to know that He is just like the husband in this scene? He puts His arm around us, He helps us up, He holds our hand, He guides us and He leads us. All out of love.

It’s Okay If We’re Not Okay

honest heart

Sometimes as Christians we can feel like failures when the emotions we feel seem more powerful and stronger than the faith and trust that we hold. At first, it may feel wrong ti feel these, but emotions, as troubling as they can be at times, can also be beautiful, honest, and raw. And that’s how God wants us to come to Him…honest and raw. These emotions are what makes us human. They are what made Jonah run in fear.  They made David cry out in despair. They even made Jesus cry out on the cross.

I have been feeling this way, but gradually, through this experience, I have learned that the opposite is true. It is through those emotions, processing them and bringing them openly before God, that my faith and trust have solidified. The promises of God, which I had been preaching to myself through this whole process have been clearly identified and revealed to a, admittedly at times, broken heart.

In sharing this unwanted adventure, everyone has been prayerful, encouraging and supportive. The people I have appreciated the most are the ones who validated my emotions and let me just be angry or scared. They didn’t try to fix them. They didn’t tell me to just have faith and trust. I had those things. They just let me feel them followed with a gentle reminder to tell God about it. If I am angry at Him to tell Him. If I don’t understand, then tell Him. That, more than anything, was what I needed to hear…that it’s okay to not be okay.

A Journey in Grief

Grief.  It’s so much more than an emotion or a stage. grief

Grief is a journey.

Grief takes you down a path of processing and healing.  This path is individualized.  The journey can be short, and the path well-paved.  It can be short, yet an uphill climb.  It can be a very long, but smooth journey, or a long and rocky one.  It can be curvy. It can even be circular.  Everyone who experiences great loss will take this journey and no two people will experience it in the same way.

Grief comes after great loss, usually the death of a loved one.  However, it’s important to know that grief can come after any loss that is deemed great to the individual.

I am not a psychologist.  I am merely a woman who has suffered great loss in the past year.

I have learned a lot about myself and about the subject of grief as I have taken my own journey down its path.   The biggest lesson I have learned is that this journey is different for everyone.  It’s important to understand this when you are done walking its path, but it is just as important to understand it if you are still on it.

Whether the journey is short or long, smooth or rocky, you can take comfort in and trust that you are not alone. Remember this from Psalm 34:18 –

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  

 

Waiting By The Phone

How many of us, both women and men, remember sitting by the phone waiting for that person we liked to call us?  Sometimes, I admit this, I even picked up the receiver to check for a dial tone just to make sure the phone was actually working.  Looking back, it’s funny, albeit, even a little pathetic, to picture ourselves doing such a thing.  The reality is, however, that we still do it.  We still wait by our phones for that phone call….the phone call with the test results we are anxiously awaiting, the phone call that hopefully has a job offer attached, etc.

What about when we are on the other end?  When we call or text someone and wait anxiously for them to pick up or respond?  There is a level of disappointment when the voice mail picks up or the text, or even email, isn’t responded to.

Now, imagine what that must be like for God.  He calls us and waits for us to pick up, to respond, – and to answer His call.  I can only imagine how many times we don’t hear “the ring.”  Or worse, we hear the ring, but still don’t answer.  Sometimes, like me, we may even answer the call waiting, putting God and His call on hold.  I did that with this blog.  I knew He wanted me to write it, but I let the other calls of life (mostly distractions) be answered before His.

Many of us are waiting for God’s call.  Be ready to respond, to answer when He does.

Isaiah 6:8 says,  “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

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