Monday, April 30, 2012

Blog Update

Just a quick note...

After six years of blogging (gosh! I didn't realize it has been that long)... I have actually redesigned this blog! As you can see, I've still kept my butterflies, for I love how they symbolize new life and transformation from something the world generally sees as ugly into something beautiful.

The layout is a bit different, though. I hope it's a little easier to navigate the different sections of the site. The menu links at the top have drop-down menus, which will jump to categories of blog posts. This will make it easier for people wanting to follow Compassion Blogger tours (or avoid them) and/or other types of posts to do so.

It also lets you read snippets from the last five posts from the home page.

I've still got a few things left to do: I still need to figure out how to standardize the image sizes, the "boxes" might change from time-to-time as I want to highlight or share different things, and there are a few other little things I still want to tweak.

The main layout changes are done, however, so if you happen to find something that's not working on your browser, I'd really appreciate if you let me know! A comment will work fine, or you can use the email link on the "About" page. Thank you to all those who read and share!

Monday, April 23, 2012

His presence in my life...

I had a rough week last week.  It wasn't particularly terrible... it was more the type of week where for some reason beyond anything you can pinpoint, even the normal is somehow harder to deal with. Do you know the feeling?

By the time Sunday came, I was hungry for the comfort of God's presence...not that I can't get that at home...but somehow it's easier when I'm surrounded by others who are also there to worship, just like I am...when the music is live and the musicians are listening to let the Holy Spirit lead.

I begged God to be there for me in worship, too, rather than just everybody else. The last few Sundays, I'd had others around me saying that worship was special, but I hadn't experienced that special connection with my God that others had. I had sung specials on Easter morning that touched people--songs that had touched me during the week at home--but on Sunday morning, I hadn't been overwhelmed by God's presence like I wanted to be. (Though that's probably a good thing. I find it difficult to actually get sounds to come out my throat when God's presence overwhelms me, which would have made it rather difficult to sing the solos and leads that I needed to so the others could be ministered to.)

But this Sunday was my Sunday. Especially after last week, my hunger for God's presence was pretty high.

I think my worship leader friend the Holy Spirit handpicked every song for me, too.  They were all among my favorite, which meant I had no difficulty singing them from the bottom of my heart. They were also all rather simple to play, which meant I could focus more on my Savior and less on my fingers finding the right chords on the keyboard. And I didn't have to lead any of them, which meant that if I got beautifully overwhelmed with His presence and found myself unable to sing, it wouldn't matter. Bliss!

I'm sharing this for two reasons.  First... so, so many people pull away from God in the rough times. Maybe they don't really comprehend the love of a Father who still wants you to come running to Him when you've been grouchy and irritable and impatient all week long.

But that's not where hope is found. Hope is found in knowing what to do when life is rough, as it definitely will be.  As my pastor so beautifully reminded us all of yesterday, the best and only worthwhile thing to do is to go to Him. Let Him have it all... the good, the bad, and the ugly, and let His presence meet you where you're at and minister to you what you need most.

One of the songs we sang yesterday was "Presence." I love this song... here are the words, abbreviated:

I lift up my voice
To the King, King of Glory
I hold out my hands
To the One who is worthy
I long for Your presence
I long, Lord, I need Your touch

Come, O Lord, and fill up my life
With the light of Your presence
This is my heart's desire
O Father, come and let Your Spirit abide
I long for your presence
This is my heart's desire

I long to be washed
In the well of Your mercy
I long to be warmed
By the fire of Your glory
I long for Your presence
I long for Your healing touch

It's my desire
Lord, it's my desire
Lord, You're my desire
I want to feel Your presence
I want to feel Your presence, Jesus...

And right in the middle of the song, He spoke to me. He whispered, "That's My desire, too... for your presence."  Me!  The God of the universe wants my presence!
It took my breath away. But it's there, all the way through the Bible, isn't it? Remember when I did that Bible study on how God speaks all five love languages, and I found myself overwhelmed with His desire to spend Quality Time with me?

Then we sang "All My Life." Here are the words:
My freedom, my reason
My savior that's what You are to me
You free me, complete me
My Savior's that's what You are,

There's no other like You
There's no one beside You
You're more than my heart can contain

And I will love You all my life
For You are my reason the one that I live for
And I will love You all my life
For You are my reason
You're the one that I live for

There's something about singing those words..."You're more than my heart can contain" that pretty much begs Him to show you just how true that is. And oh He did. Again. He overwhelmed me just with Himself.

I am so very, very grateful that whether or not I can enter His presence isn't dependent upon me having a good week! We are so very, very blessed that all we have to provide is a humble, seeking heart. His grace provides all the rest.

Do you need to do some worshiping, just like I did? Here are these two powerful songs:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Righteousness and knowing God...

Ezekiel 14
I read some more in Ezekiel this morning. I like reading the minor prophets because even though a lot of it is judgment and warnings, it is all straight from the mouth of God.  It is listening to God speak. And even if His words were being spoken to a group of people who died thousands of years ago, God's heart and mind and perspective still comes through. (And some of it applies to us anyway...probably more than we realize or want to admit.)

Ezekiel 14 contains warnings against the nation, and several times, He says that “even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in the city, their righteousness would not be enough to save any one else other than themselves.”

Several things about this statement struck me.

First, I'm encouraged by this that their righteousness would save them! God is just, and later in the chapter, He says there will be a remnant that is saved.

But I also found myself wondering... why those three?

If I were to ask who the greatest men in the Old Testament were, who comes to mind? List your own three if you want.

Many people would say Moses, David, and Elijah. The Bible talks over and over again about how great they were. Yet God didn't mention any of them here! Instead he talked about Noah, Daniel, and Job...and He talked about their righteousness.

I'm wondering if...or rather the difference in God's eyes between righteousness and greatness?

It is true that the stories of these three men do talk about their righteousness...yet did they know God? I mean, Moses was the friend of God, whom the Lord spoke to face to face...yet God did not think of Him in His list of most righteous men. David was the man after God's own heart, yet he obviously was not necessarily a righteous man. Both, in fact, were murderers.

I found myself praying.

Lord, this is a paradox! Why would he one whom You chose to call Your friend not be among the most righteous? What was it about Moses and David that brought them close to Your heart, since it evidently wasn't their righteousness? Was it because You delight in lavishing grace and mercy on those who continuously seek after You?

Then I thought of my quest to know God's voice and hear Him speak. 

What about Isaiah, Lord? What about the list of those who heard You so amazingly clearly? 

Isaiah heard You speak volumes of amazingly clear and specific prophecies, yet You haven't really told us much about him otherwise. The only hints we have that I know if, is that he was fully aware of his own sin, yet he was willing to go when You asked for someone to send.

Then there's Daniel who clearly heard from You, and he is listed among Your most righteous.

And then Moses, who filled books with what You told him...and David did, too, I suppose, for the Psalms are more prophetic than they seem. And they weren't on Your list of most righteous men.

I remember, Lord, that Isaiah said he was willing when You asked. Daniel asked that You would give him the interpretation of the king's dream (and the dream itself) and he believed You could/would do it, though there is no record of him ever hearing from You like that before. David and Moses both asked to know You. Elisha asked for Elijah's anointing, though he may not have asked to be his apprentice in the beginning.

There's no record of Ezekiel asking, though. Jeremiah didn't either...You said You chose him to prophesy before he was conceived.

So Father, it is evident that when it comes to hearing from You, asking is not a necessary part...You can just chose someone and give them no choice. 

Yet there are several who were not righteous and who did ask...and You drew them to Your heart, and You spoke to them and showed them who You are.

I was going to ask if there are any stories of those who asked and You did not give it...but I wouldn't find any, would I Father? For You said that those who seek You will find You. 

You might not choose to make everyone who seeks You a Moses or a least with the position and attention and power...but does that really matter? Surely for those whom You show Yourself to, simply knowing You is the reward.

I want to know You, Father. I want to know You, know You. Really know You and Your heart...even though I'm not righteous. I throw myself upon Your grace and mercy, for that is the only way...

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Who is alive?

It's Easter morning right now... or as many Christians prefer to call it, Resurrection Sunday...because it is, of course, the day when Jesus rose from the dead.

But is Jesus the only one who is alive?

All too often, we look at ourselves and all we see is death. Every fault and failure is a massively huge stone that's been rolled over the tomb of the man or woman we could have been.

Right?  Isn't that what you sometimes see in the mirror?

But that's not the Truth.  He said He came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. And when He rose, He proved that He does have power over death. Therefore, if He chooses to give us life, there is no one who can stop Him!

Isn't that amazing?

Do you believe that He lives?

Do you believe that YOU live?

I'm singing this song at church this morning. Listen to Natalie Grant sing it, and pay attention to the words. Look at yourself and see what mercy has overcome! Death has lost! Because not only did He roll away the stone over His own tomb, He rolled away the one over yours as well.

sung by Natalie Grant

Who but You... could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies
...and dream of me?
What kind of Love... is writing my story till the end
...with Mercy’s pen?
Only You.
What kind of king... would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars win my heart?
What kind of Love... tells me I’m the reason He can’t stay
...inside the grave?
Is it You?
Standing here before my eyes
Every part of my heart cries

Alive! Alive!
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost and Love has won
Alive! Alive!
Hallelujah, Risen Lord
The only One I fall before
I am His because He is...

Who could speak... and send the demons back to where they came
...with just one Name?
What other heart... would let itself be broken every time heal mine?
Only You...
Could turn my darkness into dawn
I'm running right into Your arms

Alive! Alive!
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost and Love has won
Alive! Alive!
Hallelujah, Risen Lord

The only One I fall before
I am His because He is...

Emmanuel, the promised King
The baby who made angels sing
Son of Man who walked with us
Healing, breathing in our dust
The author of all history
The answer to all mysteries
The Lamb of God who rolled away
The stone in front of every grave

Alive! Alive!
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost..
 And Love has won!

I am His because He is...

Friday, April 06, 2012

Not Guilty...

Today is Good Friday... when we remember what Jesus did for us.

I'm not going to write a lot... but I ask that you click "Play" and let the truth of this song fill your heart with love and thanksgiving for your amazing Savior.

Monday, April 02, 2012

"Show Me" so I can shine...

So how do we let our Light shine? How do we reach out to the world around us? 

I have a deeply-rooted belief that only Jesus can reach the world around me that needs Him so desperately. Maybe that sounds like such an obvious statement that there's no point in saying it... but here's the kicker. This means that I cannot reach the world around me. Because only He can.

How often do we think and act as though we can? As though it's our job to reach the world?

I know... Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel... but Jesus also said something else that is significant but often overlooked.

He said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19) Then He said, "I do nothing on My own initiative." (John 8:28

How many messages have you heard that begin where Jesus said everything He did began?  Do we think we are somehow more wise or able than Jesus and somehow worthy of doing things on our own initiative?

He said He did nothing except what the Father led.

How many of us start there? How many us are even able to start there?

Years ago, I realized that I could never reach the world around me in my own power. The only way I could be instrumental in reaching those around me was if they saw Jesus in me. Gracious knows that simply seeing my messy, faulty self wasn't going to offer anyone any hope!

I also realized that I could not show the world what I did not know and understand myself. It had to be in me and a part of me before it could possibly overflow and be that light shining in the dark. Therefore, the best thing that I could do to reach the world around me was to seek to know Him better myself.

It's a paradox, isn't it? Yet as I get to know Him more, I will only love Him and understand Him more. I will be able to hear His voice and see and know His ways and His will.  I will trust Him and be able (and willing) to obey more and more. I will become more and more transparent so that He will shine through me... and then He will reach those around me in a way that will be far more effective than any preaching or doing that I could possibly do on my own initiative.

I also believe that the more we know Him, the more He changes us so that we want to reach those around us.

Others around us will not see His love in us until WE know His love.

The closer we get to His heart, the more we can't help feeling the love that is there for the lost around us.

There was a point in my life years ago where the desperate need of this truth hit the deepest part of my heart. I saw how much the Christian circles I was in were failing. We were not only failing to show God's love to the world around us, but we were failing to do it among ourselves! How humbling!

And so I opened my journal and a prayer poured from my heart. The moment I finished the prayer, I knew that it was a song. I sat down at the piano, and the chords came moments later.

I sang it twice for the church I went to, and then the song sat in my songbook as years went by. Then I joined the church I am now a part of, and one day, the Lord put it on my heart to share it here in Ohio. My music pastor and friend then said she felt very strongly that we needed to add it as a congregational song. I hesitated... I didn't feel what she did, and frankly, the bridge still felt like it was missing something that was supposed to be there. But the Lord dealt with me and reminded me that it was His song, and if He had laid this on my music pastor's heart, then who was I to question His doings? So I gave it to her.

I wish I had words to express what happened the first time the team sang and played it!  God gave the guitarist music to play. He gave the other singers harmonies. And I heard, for the very first time, what was missing in the rest of the bridge. He had waited almost 10 years to let me hear it, because it takes more than one singer, and there had been no one else to sing it with me until that moment.

The power of the song swept us all away, and it is now among the most powerful songs we sing at my church.

Last fall, I felt the Lord telling me that it was time to release this song into the world.  The definition of the word "release" as He used it was simply "to let go."  He wanted me to simply quit holding onto it and let it go into the world for Him to do whatever He wants to do with it.

Yet I have struggled with knowing how. I was hoping I'd have a way to record it professionally, but no doors have opened. We tried recording it at my church, and none of them have come out well at all. We have no equipment to capture the drums or balance the voices. The sound is best when we sing it as a congregation (rather than just in practice)...yet the emotion the song brings out in me makes my voice quiver and falter, so it hardly does the song justice.

But this is all I have, and God keeps saying, "Release it. Release it. Release it."

So here it is. This is all I have TO release.

Show Me
© 2011 Kathleen Peters (since US copyright law doesn't recognize God's right to it)

Father God, Here am I
Boldly approaching
I Jesus’ name, with my request
Hear the cry of my heart
I am nothing without You
Lord forgive my pride
By Your grace I come asking
Show me who You are

Show me Your love that others may know You
Show me Your power, anoint my hands
Show me Your heart that I might see the world through Your eyes
Show me Your ways and the path of Your choosing
Show me the infinite wonder of You
Lord, all I want... is to know You

(repeat verse and chorus)
It's Your power, Your grace
Your truth, Your ways.
Your love has captured my heart.
Use my hands, my feet
My mouth, every word I speak.
Make me a reflection of You...

Show me Your love that others may know You
Show me Your power, anoint my hands
Show me Your heart that I might see the world through Your eyes
Show me Your ways and the path of Your choosing
Show me the infinite wonder of You
Lord, all I want... is to know You

If anyone reading this or listening to it wants the chords, they're here. I'd love it if you'd leave a comment or email letting me know that you're going to sing it, though.
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