Category Archives: Songs

Meijer Garden: Tales About Being ABD and MIA

Did I tell you that our son, Stephen, recently became ABD? He’s been working on his PhD from Eastman School of Music in New York and recently passed his field exam, so now he’s completed all his class work and only has to write his dissertation. (Thus “ABD,” All But Dissertation completed.) Congratulations!This is a major cause for celebration, and while he was home taking a well earned break, we wandered all through the various venues of Meijer Garden.  No sooner had we returned home than I realized that one of my ear rings was MIA (missing in action). It was part of a set of gold fleur de lis from one of the french chateaus I’d visited with Stephen (and Alan and Joel) a few years ago, and although it wasn’t super expensive, it had a lot of sentimental value, so I was quite disappointed. However, it was too late to return that afternoon to search.I remembered walking in the Japanese Garden under a low-hanging bush that had caught my hair, and I’d tugged to get my hair loose. Could that be where it fell? But, if so, would I ever be able to find it again? If not, would anyone else ever see it? If they did, would they be inclined to turn it in…or keep it? I’ve heard that there are over 1,000 volunteers at Meijer Garden, and every one I’ve ever met has been sweet and pleasant, so it occurred to me that I should at least call the front desk and ask if they have a “Lost and Found,” and if so, to give them my name and number just in case anyone found it and turned it in.The lady who answered said she was almost done with her shift and could go out and look for me. I told her not to bother, but that I appreciated her offer, saying I’d come back first thing in the morning to look.However, before I could go searching the next morning, I got a call from the front desk, saying that my ear ring had been found and would be waiting for me! It made me think about the parable of the lost coin in the Bible (Luke 15), only in that story, the woman herself swept her house and looked everywhere until she found her lost coin, then wanted her friends to celebrate with her.In my experience, kind people came to my rescue! I asked if I could have the name and number of the person who had found the ear ring, but that sweet person (probably the volunteer?) had left no information. I couldn’t even thank them!Still, I want to thank all the 1,000+ volunteers at Meijer who help make it such a beautiful, warm, and welcoming place, and all the visitors who enjoy the gardens with care and integrity. I’m inspired! I’ll never be ABD, and I hope I’m never MIA, but if any of you are feeling MIA emotionally or spiritually, please contact someone (myself included!) to let them know you’re lost and would like to be found! Jesus is even better than a volunteer! Jesus is the good shepherd, who gave his life for lost sheep (people, like me), and if you call out to Him, He will rescue you and bring you safely home to heaven! As He taught, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
(Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847)

1. Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

2. We are thine, thou dost befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep thy flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

3. Thou hast promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
thou hast mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.

4. Early let us seek thy favor,
early let us do thy will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

The Royal Wedding Reflects on The Song of Solomon

Did  you watch any of England’s royal wedding over the weekend? England’s Prince Harry of Wales married America’s Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018, but not at Westminster Cathedral, as I assumed. Because Harry is sixth in line to the throne, they were able to avoid inviting political figures (such as Barak Obama or Donald Trump) and instead had a smaller, more intimate ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I hadn’t really followed this wonderful celebration while it was occurred, but I had several friends urge me to watch, particularly because Prince Harry’s aunt read the scripture lesson from the Song of Solomon, which was also the text for the message given by The Most Reverend Michael Curry.  If you have fourteen minutes to hear the message, it can be found here: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/may/read-the-powerful-sermon-on-love-bishop-michael-curry-preached-at-the-royal-wedding

Although British royalty don’t often speak of their faith, some of them have a clear and deep testimony to their faith in Christ, particularly the reigning Queen, Elizabeth II, who spoke of her beliefs in the forward to a book published by the Bible Society in time to celebrate the queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. One of the co-authors, Catherine Butcher, reported to Premier.org: “So to have a monarch who talks openly about Jesus in a very relaxed and natural way, we find that a huge encouragement and hope that Christians across the country will take a leaf out of The Queen’s book and learn to talk about Jesus in a natural way with friends, relatives and colleagues, so people can discover more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” Amen? Amen!!One of the best parts of the wedding (to me) was the singing of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which reportedly moistened Prince Harry’s eyes, perhaps because it was his mother’s favorite song and also sung at her funeral. May the words of this Christian anthem be true for England’s beautiful royal family, as well as for each of us!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(— William Williams, 1745)

“Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

“Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.”

For thou art my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me
” (Psalm 31:3).

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

 

*First photo is one of the official wedding photos; the rest I found on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Filling Cindarella’s Slippers

Wednesday Alan and I headed up “home” to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the funeral of a beloved friend’s mother…perhaps the last of the older generation who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. When my family moved to Michigan from the west 57 years ago, I had 27 cousins, almost all of whom lived in Colorado where both my parents grew up. Within a few years, I had latched on to the family of my closest girlfriend, Brenda, and the family of one of my dearest guy friends, Larry, who was like a brother to me. Larry’s parents became “Aunt Faye” and “Uncle Milt,” helping ease my sense of loss over being so far from extended family. Milt and Faye were the type of people who had their arms open wide for anybody and everybody, so they never batted an eye!

Although I didn’t really see a lot of them over the years, I was definitely impressed by Faye’s gracious heart and sweet spirit. She was one of those very rare “virtuous women” eulogized in Proverbs 31. Faye had four sons, who all turned out great. I had six sons, who are still in the process of turning out, but I hope they end up as well as hers have! Her sons and their wives sang “Blessed Assurance” at the funeral, and I told Alan that I would like our seven (I also have one daughter!) and their spouses to sing “Blessed Assurance” at my funeral too! I love that song! It was the first song I ever sang as “special music” at our little church in the Soo after I became a Christian, and it reflects not only Faye’s life story, but mine as well!   Faye was 90 and in the midst of enjoying her 72nd year of marriage to Milt. No one is ever ready to lose their mom, but Faye was ready to join her Savior in heaven…along with her sister—as her oldest grandson surmised—so they could get busy making heaven even cleaner.  Her grandson made everybody laugh and cry more than I’ve ever seen at a funeral, and there was standing room only at the back of Hovie’s overflowing chapel. Even two of her caregivers came (which Alan says he’s never seen before), and the place was jammed. How often does that happen for somebody who’s 90?!! Anyway, it was very sad to lose her, but it was also a celebration of a beautiful life beautifully lived, and I left so inspired that I’ve got my funeral all planned out now! You think I’m kidding? I am not!  At any rate, I hope you are ready to die, and when I die, I hope people celebrate my life with the sense of peace and joy that undergirded all the sorrow flowing Wednesday. I would love to be remembered the way Faye was. One daughter-in-law mentioned how she made each of her sons feel special and loved. Another daughter-in-law mentioned how Faye made each of her daughter-in-laws feel totally loved and accepted. None of her sons could speak…which also speaks volumes to me about how much they loved her, because they are usually full of life and tales. 🙂  Isn’t that sweet? I guess if I want to die like Faye, I’d better work hard at living like Faye. She has beautiful, transparent slippers to fill!

        Blessed Assurance
(—Fanny Crosby, 1873)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

 

Are You The Same Kind of Different As Me?

When Same Kind of Different as Me came out last October (2017), one of my friends told me that I’d love it and to watch for it. So, when it came up on the play list during a recent flight to Hawaii, it was the first thing I watched!  Same Kind of Different as Me is based on the New York Times’
best selling memoir by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  Ron, a successful art dealer in Fort Worth, Texas,  is married to Debbie,
a woman “with a heart bigger than the whole state of Texas.”

When their marriage almost ends, they embark together on a mission to serve others that’s prompted by a dream Debbie has one night. The story is full of suspense, pain and healing… the transformation of men and women by the power of love.

It all started in a rescue mission in the slums of Dallas, Texas  but has expanded to inspire millions to help with the homeless in America.

In an interview, I heard Denver say something to this effect: “The movie tells the story of a nobody who shares the good news with everybody that Somebody can save anybody.”  Here’s another wonderful quote from Dallas’ obituary (after the book was written): “Miss Debbie saw through all the anger and confusion and saw straight to his heart,” Mr. Hall recalled. “It was like the old hymn he used to sing on the plantation, ‘When nothing else would help, love lifted me, love lifted me.’ He said it was her love that gave him hope and reason to change.” (https://www.dallasnews.com/obituaries/obituaries/2012/04/08/denver-moore-homeless-man-turned-inspiring-author-and-speaker-dies-at-75)

Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Love Lifted Me
(by James Rose, 1912, public domain)

  1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
    Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
    But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
    From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

    • Refrain:
      Love lifted me!
      Love lifted me!
      When nothing else could help,
      Love lifted me!
  2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
    In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
    Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
    Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
  3. Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
    He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
    He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
    He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Rise Up, My Love (278): Beautiful Beyond Description

Song of Solomon 8:9 “If she be a wall…” Let’s take a sanctified flight into imagination and try to picture ourselves as a wall that God is building. I only know of one wall God is building that is pictured for us in Scripture, and it’s the wall around the new Jerusalem. I’m going to imagine that you and I are like that beautiful city. As an apologetic for our imagineering, consider the passage in Revelation 21:9-10 where an angel tells Paul, “I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and then carries Paul away in the spirit and shows him “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”

I think it’s fair to imagine ourselves as being a wall and a city that God is building for his glory. Also, he says “we are his workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10), and we “are the temple of the Living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). In I Peter 2 we are taught that each of us is a “living stone…chosen of God, and precious,” to build up a spiritual house on the cornerstone, which is Christ, as we learn again in Ephesians 2:20-22: “Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

So, let’s look at this wall and city. First, what is its foundation? Let’s look at the third chapter of I Corinthians for a minute. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11). “But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (3:10) We should build upon this foundation with spiritual gold, silver, and precious stones, because those things will pass the test of fire (3:12-15).

In Revelation 21 the city is described as unbelievably beautiful. There are twelve foundations of the wall, each made of a precious stone such as sapphire, emerald, and amethyst, and the entire foundation is garnished with a dazzling array of precious stones. The wall itself is made of clear crystal, and it has twelve gates with each door being made from a single immense pearl. The streets are paved with pure, transparent gold, and the entire city is radiant with the light of the glory of God.

Wow! I know Proverbs teaches us that a virtuous wife is worth more than rubies, but how could I ever be as beautiful as the New Jerusalem? Can you imagine a person that magnificent? I was shocked to realize that I think a city made of gold and gems would be more beautiful than a person could ever be. Does that mean at heart I value money above people? Hopefully not, although it definitely means my spiritual vision needs sharpening. I wouldn’t trade Jesus or those I love for any amount of money; they are much too precious to me…but are they more beautiful?

Perhaps it is the yearning for perfection that makes us think of gold and gems as being more perfect in beauty. But, in fact, we will be perfect and without defect when we are united to Christ as His bride! What will we look like in our perfect, glorified bodies? What does Jesus look like? My feeble imagination is too limited to visualize what he truly looks like. My heart echoes the songwriter and pastor, Mark Altrogge:

“You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depths of Your love? You are beautiful beyond description, majesty enthroned above.
And I stand, I stand in awe of You. I stand, I stand in awe of You.
Precious God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.”

Although it’s beyond us to comprehend what he truly looks like, like the Apostle John, we can “know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (I John 3:2-3). Beloved, may we keep bathing ourselves in the Fountain of Life to find cleansing, healing, and purification so that we will become more perfect in beauty to our beautiful Savior!