You Raise Me Up

Though of Northern Irish descent, have never gotten too hyped up about St. Patrick’s Day. Could be a lot of reasons for that – for sure am not into “green beer” wild parades and parties side of the celebration that tends to be what we hear most about here. That said, I have been focused on the Irish side of it more this year. That, I suspect, is based solely on our trip last fall to NI. Frankly, I’d hop on a plane and go back today if I could. To me, it was simply magical.

Since that particular trip is not a present day option, I chose to pull out the Celtic Woman playlist on my iPhone and have played every song (including Christmas ones) multiple times. Twice, my family and I experienced Celtic Woman live in concert. If I could figure out how to get to Atlanta for their April 30th gig (already have too many commitments in a short time frame), I’d likely be going again. Their musical style speaks to me. I can’t explain it. It just does.

One of my very favorites is You Raise Me Up. The link below is to their official video. Filmed in Ireland, it is the real deal. More importantly, the words go straight to the heart.

Celtic Woman – You Raise Me Up – Video Dailymotion.

As we prepare for Easter, this goes deeper. God, through His Son Jesus Christ does indeed “raise us up”. In return, what did we do? We “lifted Him up” on the cross that awful Friday so we can eternally be raised up with Him.

In John 12:27-36 (HCB), we find these words:

“Now My soul is troubled. What should I say–Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”

The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him. Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for Me, but for you. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.” He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die.

Then the crowd replied to Him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.

As you prepare you heart for Easter, think about this. Are you in darkness? Do you know that The King has come and will be coming again. And when He does, will you be ready for Him to “raise you up”?

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

 

Lyrics

When I am down and oh, my soul’s so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
then I am still and wait here in the silence
until you come and sit a while with me

There is no life, no life with out its hunger
each restless heart beats so imperfectly.
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
sometimes I think I glimpse eternity.

Chorus:
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on you shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.

You raise me up to more than I can be.

Are You His Instrument?

Wednesday night, Eva Hart, our ever capable “Choir Mistress” and piano player extraordinaire, share the following story during our devotional time.  Eva, during the years she was doing USO tours, had a stopover in NYC.  Unlike normal tourists, Eva and a friend decided to visit the Steinway piano factory.  This story is hers (as is the emphasis!) and well worth sharing again. What she saw that day in the Steinway factory, made an impact on her that she carries with her today.
“Each piano is made from scratch – (it takes) 11 to 12 months and 450 workers to produce a single instrument.
(The) SOUNDBOARD is stretched to maximum tolerance and has to sit for an extended time (in a corner of the plant) until it remains in the curved design.  AFTER THIS STRETCHING, THE WOOD WILL NEVER SPRING BACK – PERMANENTLY CHANGED —The piano is becoming a fine-tuned instrument. IF the soundboard is cracked or broken, the instrument is USELESS to the person who plays it. (Sidebar: Eva said you could play it with a broken soundboard but you would NOT enjoy it!)
 
The next step requires (placing) 11 TONS OF PRESSURE on a piano to tune EACH of the 240 strings that is necessary to produce the sound on 88 keys.
Thousands of tiny pieces of wood and metal that comprise the sound board and keyboard are THEN placed in the piano shell and a tedious manual tuning takes place – the piano is given an INDIVIDUAL NUMBER and IF purchased at the factory it is signed (our Sanctuary Steinway is signed).
Each instrument has its own personality – NO TWO ARE ALIKE! Some sound small and mellow – these are used for chamber concerts and smaller venues.  Then there are the big, percussive instruments used for large halls. Each one of our 9 foot Steinway’s  carry this characteristic. (Sidebar: FBCJ has three of these fine instruments and Eva can tell which is which by simply listening.  The one in the Sanctuary is only one that was purchased directly at the factory.)
Why do I tell you these facts?  God looks at each of us as a fine tuned instruments beginning as rough wood like the Steinway, and then God begins the stretching (transformation).  Remember I told you that no 2 Steinway’s are alike – none of us are alike either.  Tuning us requires experiences to STRETCH our faith.  When we are in the midst of these stretching times or painful experiences, we know that God knows that this stretching and stress is NECESSARY.  When we commit our lives and hearts to HIM, He signs us in his blood, just as the maker signs each Steinway masterpiece, and transforms US into the instrument that HE can use to play a beautiful song.”
We are all stretched daily. The stretching is part of the refining process but is nothing like that experienced by our Savior when He was stretched out on the Cross, and signed our name in His blood. 
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.   Ephesians 3:16 NIV

He is Emmanuel, God with us. I believe.

Person of Influence

Often you hear law enforcement types talk about “persons of interest” – fairly sure I never want to turn up on that list!  It would be cool to be an interesting person (along with a lot of other things) – but I am fairly content flying below the radar and just getting things done without calling a lot of attention to it (especially to law enforcement).

During Worship last Sunday, Dr. Page adjusted my perspective on this. His reminder, God wants “persons of influence” – people who make a difference for Him. Hmmm. What would be missed in Kingdom Work, if I were not here? What opportunities would be lost? Can one person make a difference?

The handsome guy to the right is my great grandfather – George Austin McHenry (I like that name – to me it is a very strong name that reflects character).  “Ponnie”, as he was known to his six grandchildren (my Dad is the youngest of those), instilled in us all a sense of adventure, community service, doing what it takes, making a stand for what you believe, leading in church, all of that.  He died long before I came along but it is like I have always known him.

 

Ponnie was a physician like his father before him.  His son, Floyd, my grandfather, was a pharmacist and (GULP) politician (the first Chancery Clerk of Stone County), but my Dad and my youngest sister followed those same footsteps. He led a group of folks into Mississippi from up north to settle in the piney woods of South Mississippi.  Originally this was known as the Michigan Settlement in what we then northern Harrison County but came to be known as “McHenry”.  He traveled the world, leaving my great grandmother Una and my grandfather in McHenry doing things like building community and building a house (known as the G.A. McHenry House, it will be 114 years old this spring. It should be noted that my great grandmother managed most of the construction of the house and was a force to be reckoned with!). As a family they made a difference. 

G.A. McHenry Family and the House

Ponnie was a Captain in the Army. According to his personal story, he finished his military career as a Major and Brigade Surgeon. He served in Cuba in the Spanish American War and helped in the fight against yellow fever. Again, according to his personal story, he made 24 ocean voyages traveling the world. Yet he returned to that small bustling community in South Mississippi to practice medicine in an “ordinary country practice”. 

Never have I heard anything spoken against him by family or members of the community. He knew them all by name – Bond – Breland – Broadus – Hatten – Lott – names still prevalent in that area today.  He was a “person of influence”. 

In Ezekiel 22:30, God was looking for a single person of influence. He found none. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” God was looking among His people and found no one who would stand up for Him. How heartbreaking that must have been / must be for God to not have someone willing to stand in the gap – stand up for what you believe – stand up for what is sound spiritual truth, stand up as Children of the King, not children of the world, be “Persons of Influence”.

McHenry Methodist Church

As Christians, we have become numb – we know things around us are not right – but we look past them rather than confront them because it is just easier to go with the flow and be politically correct than to stir the pot. Somehow I doubt George Austin McHenry did that. Truth is, he became righteously angry about things he believed were wrong (there are documents that back that up). What if Jesus had done that? I, for one, am thankful He didn’t for if He had, we would be without hope.

II Chronicles 16:9 reminds us: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. I want to be found when God is looking for someone to stand in the gap for Him. But, the verse does not end there. It goes on to say: “You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”  As a nation we have done many foolish things. I pray that we will turn back as a nation to Him. I yearn to be again, “One Nation, Under God”. 

We are not a people without hope but God expects us to stand in that gap, to be different, to stand for what we believe rather than turn our heads away. He calls us, by name just as great grandfather called the members of that young community by name, to stand for Him. 

Lord, help me to be boldly a person who stands in the gap for you and be that person of influence. I worship you. 

You are Emmanuel – God with us – I believe.  

More Grace

Peaceful Creation of God

I shared with two friends at work this week that life happens when you are waiting on something else.  For me in 2004, I was looking for patience. I found it in my journey with cancer. 

These two are not facing their first challenges in life. This week it is a sister dying from cancer for one and an unhappy gall bladder for the other. Yet those are just steps in their journey. One served our country as a United States Marine and has a son following in her footsteps. She raised her two boys pretty much on her own into fine young men; cared for her Mom in her last days and attempts to keep up with her globe-trotting Dad. The other lost her Mom to cancer as a young adult and with her grandmother raised her sister and took care of her Dad (who is now gone, too). Both are great people with great inner strength, great hearts, strong work ethics, and absolute faith. How fortunate I am to work with folks like that and to call them my friends.

Often this week I have reflected on II Corinthians 12:9 (KJV) – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Paul nailed it – to openly acknowledge that he would glory in his weakness so that the power of Christ would rest in him.  His grace is enough for every situation of life. 


Sometimes we are afraid and we lose sight of His grace. Not His fault – we are tossed out of focus by life but He remains there. Micah 5:5 (KJV) prophesied it: “And He will be our peace.” Jesus reminded us over and over but the verse that most often comes to mind is John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” His grace is enough. He leaves us surrounded by His love – His peace – His grace. 

Toward the end of that chapter, we find this verse (John 14:27 NIV): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

My prayers go with my friends tonight and in the days ahead but I know they are in His hands and that His grace will be more than enough. He is Emmanuel. God with us. I believe.



"Stupid Sheep"

Say what? “Stupid sheep?” Now what is she talking about (and no, I have not been into the eggnog!)
May come as no surprise that the term “stupid sheep” was coined as the result of a Carols dress rehearsal incident in 2003 when live sheep showed up as part of the Nativity and a group of very tired Sopranos went from bad to worse in their reaction to that and some other stuff. The story is somewhat legend but I am not going to share all of its particulars out of respect for my friends. Do note it has nothing to do with the “Wandering In The Dark Award” but could be a fit for that as well. That said, the term stuck and we use it to refer to ourselves when we go wandering.
Though God was (and is) far more tactful, His reference to us as sheep fits the bill. Isaiah recognized it: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:6). Handel used this scripture in Messiah in the octavo “All We Like Sheep” (note to folks who argue for and against certain worship styles, The Messiah is the ultimate “7-11” music in structure!). In fact, the Bible mentions sheep over 500 times. Sheep are mentioned more often than any other animal in the Bible.
Sheep have to be led around. They are not the smartest animals ever created or that took a ride with Noah on the ark! They get lost. They wander into places they have no business going. They make dumb decisions. They cannot keep their eye on the goal. Could that be why God chose to refer to His people as sheep? The Shepherd is responsible for rounding them up and getting them back on the path. It was not accidental that shepherds were the ones who first heard the Good News of His birth and who worshiped Him at the manger.
Though we know the characteristics of sheep definitely fit us, we also know that perfect lambs – lambs without blemish – were from the beginning of time – used as sacrifices for the sins of mankind.
At http://www.abideinchrist.com/selah/mar17.html, I found this discussion about the sacrificial lamb: “The innocence and gentleness of the sacrificial lamb is featured in descriptions in the Old Testament. As a symbol, the sacrificial lamb prefigured the character and suffering of the Lamb of God (Acts 8:32; Isa. 53:7). Jesus is introduced in the Gospel of John as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19; Isa. 53:7).” And so He did.
From those flocks in the fields outside Bethlehem that first Christmas night to us as we move (yes – wander at times) through life, God had a plan. He knew Jesus would be born in that manger and He knew that the manger cradle was in the shadow of the cross and that the necessary cycle would not be complete without His resurrection. Any one of these events without the other two are just isolated events in history.
What gets me is that Jesus had choices. I know God had to know that Jesus would make the right choices – the choices that make a difference in eternity but being very human, I wonder at times – what if Jesus had a Cille moment and made a Cille-like decision? Thankfully that did not happen.
So when I laugh and think about “stupid sheep”, I will stop and remember that the One who represented the ultimate in sacrificial lambs was not in that category. Thank goodness for that.
Emmanuel. God with us. I believe.