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A Song in the Night

“….‘Where is God my Maker who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’” Job 35:10, 11

Clouded moon

Christ’s death and resurrection is particularly dear to me this year, as our earthly celebration follows mere days after my sister-in-law passed away. Over the past four years, some of my posts documented Rebecca’s battle with cancer and requests for your prayers.  You shared in her victories and disappointments. Now she is gone–and it’s as difficult to write that as to believe it.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 

I Corinthians 15:56, 57

Becky wrote a song the night before she had a very difficult back surgery to remedy months of excruciating pain caused by an unforgiving tumor.  The song was put to music by the worship team at her church and played at her memorial service last week.  I may have a word or two wrong since I transcribed this from a shaky recording, but it deserves to be shared:

Becky’s Song in the Night

Jesus you are the bright and morning star

Illuminate our hearts and guide us where you are

Help us dear Lord in the shining light you send

Oh morning star, we love you, and we long for You

Jesus morning star, our lives in you made new

Jesus morning star, our lives in you made new!

~~

Chorus:

Praise the bright and Morning star

Praise his holy name

Praise the Master and the Saviour,

You won’t be the same

Praise Him, Morning star!

Praise Him, The bright and Morning star!

~~

Now as you rise in heavens glory, morning star

Help our hearts to rise up on your wings

Help us know the ways you made us free,

And let us see your beauty and your majesty!

~~

Praise the bright and Morning star

Praise his holy name

Praise the Master and the Saviour,

You won’t be the same

Praise Him, Morning star!

Praise Him, The bright and Morning star!

How amazing, that her song in the night focused entirely on her Morning Star!  Becky’s eyes were fixed on Jesus!

As we remember our Lord’s Passion, his suffering, pain and grief, may our songs in the night melt into praise in the morning, as we see Him, risen with power and glory, paving the way of Hope for our eternal future!

~~

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.   According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

And so we will be with the Lord forever.

I Thess. 4:13-17 

~

Timely Word for the Journey

My favourite Christian author, preacher, writer, and teacher is Charles H. Spurgeon.  Anyone who’s read my blog for even a week has probably figured that one out!  The devotional I’ve worn out for the past 7 years is Morning by Morning.  Each page offers insight, encouragement, and Scriptures that always point to Jesus.  His daily meditations have never ceased to offer timely words for my journey.

Sometimes I share little blurbs, other time composites of Spurgeon thought, but today I must share the devotional in its entirety.  It’s That good!  May it connect with someone’s heart and need today, and lift up a weary pilgrim along the way:

“He led them forth by the right way.”  Psalm 107:9

Changing circumstances often causes the anxious believer to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” I looked for light, but darkness came; for peace, but faced trouble. I said in my heart, my mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved.  Lord, You hide Your face, and I am troubled. Only yesterday I could read my title clearly; but today my evidences are blurred, and my hopes are clouded.  Yesterday I could climb the mountain and view the landscape and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance; today my spirit has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but great distress.

Is this part of God’s plan for me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven?

Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope–all these things are just parts of God’s method of making you ready for the great inheritance, which you will soon enjoy.

These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith–they are waves that wash you further upon the rock–they are winds that steer your ship more quickly toward the desired haven. What David wrote then will be true of you: “He brought them to their desired haven” (verse 30). By honor and dishonor, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace–by all these things your spiritual life is maintained, and by each of these you are helped on your way.

Do not think, believer, that your sorrows are out of God’s plan; they are necessary parts of it. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” Learn, then, to “count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds.”

O let my trembling soul be still,
And trust Thy wise, Thy holy will!
I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
Yet all is well since ruled by Thee.

~~~

If you would like some daily encouragement from Spurgeon, you can buy his devotionals HERE, or read it online HERE.

Still Praying for Kate

 

Will you please join me today, and pray for Kate and her family?  Learn their story HERE.

I blogged about Kate’s battles and victories with brain cancer, Here and Here.

Now, it seems the cancer is back.  This is devastating for a 7 year-old and her parents.  So, please remember them, pray for them, and even sign into Caring Bridge and share a prayer, thought, or Scripture. 

I thank you.  But more than that, they will be encouraged, and the Lord will hear your prayers!

A Christmas Prayer

The best of times…and the worst of times.  The Christmas season.  In so many ways, it is the best of times, as Scrooge’s nephew says, “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely…” [1]

But if bad, even awful, things happen during this “festive season of the year,” including loss, sickness, loneliness, unemployment or unmet expectations, Christmas can easily turn dark, and feel like the worst time of the year.  

Our friend, Colin Bernard, who sings the song in the YouTube video below, puts it this way:  

“For some people, Christmas is the loneliest time of the year and I think we’ve all had a chance to experience a bit of sadness at one Christmas or another. But Christmas being what it is, reminds us that the future is loaded with Hope….  As secular and as commercial as Christmas has become, there is always that underlying yearning and thirst for the hope that Christ offers. Everyone feels it but most don’t realize what [Who] the source of that yearning is.”

  

 

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER
by Joel Bernard

Well the music is sweet and the snow it is white
And I’m surrounded by strangers
On this frozen Christmas night
O Angel of Mercy, Angel of Light
Won’t you be a lamp at my feet
Lead me through this restless night

And I’d give anything to feel Christmas in my heart
And I’d give everything to sing songs of this holy night
And I’d give anything to feel Christmas in my heart tonight

Now I find myself on this empty street
Four o’clock in the morning, such a deafening silence
The snow it is gentle, falling light and sweet
Softly resting on me, just a token of Your love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you know the Hope of Christmas, be thankful! Share with others, humbly, gently, yet passionately.

If your Christmas feels like the worst of times, you’re not alone.  Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Your burdens are very real, but thankfully, He offers comfort that’s even more real.  He isn’t just a Babe in a manger.  He is a loving Redeemer who is only a prayer away.

 

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

 

[1] Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843.  Pg. 9.

Story of a Song

“For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods!” Psalm 97:9

I EXALT THEE!

Every song has a story, even thousands of stories.  The obvious story is what’s being said through the lyrics.  Then there’s what the writer felt but, perhaps, never verbalized through the words of the song.  And then, there’s a story for each and every listener of the song–the pain or joy they equate with it, or where they first heard it, what they were doing, who they were with, etc. 

We have a story for “I Exalt Thee” which, as Spurgeon says, ‘shows that the goodness of God has been the same to us as the saints of old.”

Flashback:  1977.  Okinawa, Japan.  I was pregnant with our first daughter (Joy).  In the decades before  Amazon.com, UPS, FedEx and other express-mailing days, it was so exciting to get packages overseas.  Every month we ordered a record album through an old-school Columbia House membership.  When Pete Sanchez’s album arrived, it didn’t take long to realize what a treasure we had received!!  All the songs were so worshipful!  John loved them so much that he made a cassette copy for us to use at a home Bible Study that we attended.   Sitting in the small living room of our friends’ military apartment, our feeble voices joined with Sanchez’s to exalt the Lord above all other gods!

Flash a bit forward:  1989-1994.  A time when we were far away from the Lord.  During that time, we’d occasionally find ourselves in church with family, or *accidentally* listening to Christian radio, and “I Exalt Thee” would be sung or played.  I would weep, realizing how far away we were from that humble worship time in Okinawa–how far our hearts were from exalting our Lord above all gods.  How far we had fallen. 

Present:  The video above—singing” I Exalt Thee” with His church and precious believers in Ottawa.   After sixteen long years of God’s wounding and healing, tearing down and building up, rescuing, restoring, and reconciliation, we sang as if we were back in Okinawa.  That could only be the Lord’s doing.

And that is our story of “I Exalt Thee.”  That God is faithful.  He sees beginning to end.  In 1977, when we poured our hearts to Him in worship, He knew there’d be days ahead when we would fall away for a time, just as He knew Peter would deny Him three times.  And what did Jesus say?

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus didn’t let go.  Jesus didn’t quit on us when we quit on Him.  That’s our story–His faithfulness!

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

 

PS.  You can read more about our church service on Saturday nites at  SaulGood  and Andy’s blog, HERE.

Two Towers

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and is….  safe.”
Proverbs 18:10

We can run into one of two towers;  the Lord Jesus, who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever; or the tower of our own making, our own pleasures, gods, treasures, or devices.

As we remember the grievious and tragic events of 9/11, we’re sadly reminded how frail we are, and the towers of our making.  I cry all over again when I watch replays of the brave firefighters racing into the World Trade Towers, giving their all to save others, unaware of their own fate.  I want to stop them in flight and cry, “Don’t run in there!  It’s burning, and it’s going to come down on you!”   And so too, I weep and want to halt loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who are running full speed towards things that will ultimately collapse, towards hopes that will disappoint.  Our lives, our towers, the structures in life in which we place our hopes, are vulnerable to loss, decay, theft, and worse.

Please pray with me today for those who are running into frail towers, vulnerable to the effects of time and tragedy.  Pray and share.  There is a strong tower, where we can be safe…beyond time, into eternity.   Run to Jesus. 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”  John 3:16, 17

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.”    Hebrews 13:8

My Hope

“My Hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

Hope is….to cherish a desire with anticipation.  That defines My Hope…Jesus.

“Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life!”  Titus 3:7

In memory of Todd’s recent passing from death to eternal life, I needed a reminder of  hope and encouragement, since I find myself on this side of eternity, seeing a bit darkly, and walking, sometimes hobbling, by faith.

C. H. Spurgeon writes:

‘The voice of weeping shall be no more heard.’  (Isaiah 65:19)   The glorified weep no more, for all outward causes of grief are gone.  There are no broken friendships, or blighted prospects in heaven.  Poverty, famine, peril, persecution and slander are unknown there.  No pain distresses, no thought of death or bereavement saddens.

  They weep no more, for they are perfectly sanctified.  They are without fault before His throne and are fully conformed to His image.  Well may they cease to mourn who have ceased to sin. 

They weep no more, because all fear of change is past.  They know that they are eternally secure.  Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They live in a city that will never be stormed..bask in a sun that will never set…drink from a river that will never run dry…and pick fruit from a tree that will never wither.

They weep no more because every desire is fulfilled.  They cannot wish for anything that they do not already have in their possession.  Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire, will, and all the faculties are completely satisfied.

The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight, is in them…and that same joyful rest remains for us.  It may not be far distant.  ‘Wherefore, comfort one another with these words!’ (I Thess. 4:18) 

John Newton wrote this hymn about a loved one’s death:

In vain, my fancy strives to paint
The moment after death,
The glories that surround the saint,
Then yielding up his breath.

One gentle sigh the fetter breaks:
We scarce can say,”They’re gone!”
Before the willing spirit takes
Her mansion near the throne.

Faith strives, but all its efforts fail,
To trace her in the flight;
No eye can pierce within the veil
Which hides that world of light.

Thus much (and this is all) we know,
They are completely blest:
Have done with sin, and care, and woe,
And with their Saviour rest!

Before our Lord, they praise His name,
His face they always view;
Then let us followers be of them,
That we may praise Him too.

 

This is an encouraging quote from Bunyan’s Pilgrim:

There also you shall serve Him continually with praise, shouting, and thanksgiving, Him whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty, because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the mighty One.

 

And from Jesus:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”  John 11:25

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hell.” Revelation 1:17, 18 

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  Revelation 22:17

 

What is your Hope? 

 

The Todd for whom we Prayed

“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here.  But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children.” 
Psalm 103:15-17

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the joyous news of Kate McRae’s present progress in her battle with cancer. And we continue to pray she will remain cancer-free, so every day of her life will glorify the Lord. 

Well, another precious one we’ve been praying for is cancer-free too, except his pathway to healing was a little different.  Todd passed away Saturday night and is now present with the Lord. His life and faith truly brought glory to the Lord, and his faith has become sight!

If you’ve been praying for Todd, or want to know more about someone who demonstrated joy in sorrow, hope through despair, and unfailing love in His God and Saviour, even when obstacles became bigger than life–then please go to Beth’s Blog, HERE.  

Please remember to keep Todd’s family, his wife and two children, parents, and many dear friends, in prayer as they face the future without him, but never without our loving Lord.  Thank you!

In honour of Todd, here is an encouraging excerpt from The Pilgrim’s Progress, as Christian enters the Celestial City:

The Shining Ones answered, “You must receive the comforts of all your toil and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, tears, and sufferings in your journey for the King….”

“These are the men who have loved our Lord when they were in the world and who have left all for His holy name….”

O by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed!! 

 

Remember to visit Beth Stone’s Blog  to learn more about Todd.  Additionally, you can read about his testimony and funeral service details HERE.

The Kate for whom we pray

Exceedingly better than I deserve…that’s how I’m doing.

That’s the short answer to how I’ve been, since I haven’t updated my blog much lately.  John has probably taken 10000 photos of our journey, our days, and our family, all of which I hope to eventually share (well, just a few pics perhaps :-)).

In the meantime, I want to let you into the life of the “Kate” for whom we pray (see avatar, above right).  In the next few days, I will cover “Todd” and “Matt,” who are also battling cancer, yet staying strong in their faith and walk with Jesus. 

The following is from Kate’s care pages and is written by her mom, Holly. 

“Monday, July 26, 2010 4:07 PM, MST

 

2 years ago I thought life was stressful. We were again uprooting our family, this time to move to the desert, the suburbs of Phoenix that is. We were moving to start a church none the less. And we were raising money to live on in a less than favorable economy. Not the practical choice in many eyes. We were excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Excited about the possibilities, overwhelmed knowing if God didn’t come through for us, we were in trouble.
 

I think about those days often. The things I worried about, the things I failed to enjoy amidst the uncertainties. And now we find ourselves in a far more stressful, far more uncertain and heartbreaking situation. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t secretly wish we could go back to those pre cancer days. That I wouldn’t take those stressful moments in exchange for the ones we now face. That I don’t wish I would have taken each day as it came and simply cherished having my three babies home under one roof. Little did we know the mountain that lay ahead as we were so busy climbing that hill.

None of us know what lies ahead for certain. We simply have a poignant reminder each and every day. It came in the form of cancer. So each morning we wake up and are faced with unknowns and oftentimes impending decisions that no parent should ever have to make. Most days I want to crumble. Most days I could shut my blinds, crawl back in bed and cry all day. And cry I do. But I realize just as before, I don’t want to look back and have regrets. I don’t want to waste the time we do have raising our 3 kids. I want to enjoy them in spite of cancer.

It is a battle. And most days it is anything but easy. But we are learning to see the blessings amidst the uncertainties, amidst our heartbreak. To be thankful, even when life is uncertain. So I felt compelled to share just a few of the blessings with you over the next few days…here is one example…

For as long as I can remember Kate has wanted a dog. All of our kids have, but Kate always seemed to beg the loudest. Each time we would lay out the reasons why this wasn’t a good time. After Kate was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had her subsequent brain surgery her love for life seemed to slip away. A frown often replacing her vibrant smile. A blank stare replacing the ever mischievous sparkle in her eyes. There were days we didn’t know if “our Kate” would ever be back. It was crushing.

 

 Finally, after what felt like years (hospital days do) she began to smile again. This was thanks in part to the pet therapy dogs. Every time we saw a dog in the hospital we would beg for them to bring it in Kate’s room to visit. Then through nothing but God orchestrated events, we were put in touch with a family who wanted to provide Kate with a dog, the exact kind we had looked into, but were unable to afford at the time. And so on Kate’s second trip home from inpatient chemotherapy with her thinning hair,  mere handful of eyelashes, her feeding tube and assortment of braces, she was given one of her wishes, Patrick, her goldendoodle. There was nothing that could temper her excitement that day, not even cancer. I included a picture so you could see the missing smile that had returned with such vibrance. One of the many blessings amidst the pain.”

You can follow Kate and her family’s journey with cancer on her Carepage link: KATE   Please consider signing their guest book, and encouraging this family in some small way.

Broken-Down House

I’m one-month behind in my reading plan…but I doubt anyone noticed.  However, I feel like I have a ‘great cloud” of anonymous reading partners from Lifeasmom, who are all committed to a personal reading plan for the year..and watching me.  So, I press on!   

Over the past year or so, I’ve read three books by Paul David Tripp, and each were perfectly suited for the time.   I probably shared the most from A Shelter in the Time of Storm, and still count it as my favourite.

But my May book sounded so intriguing and did not disappoint–Broken-Down House.  I think the title’s the reason I bought the book!  Over three years ago, we bought a little house in the country, which, though not truly broken-down, certainly needed some repair.  And as anyone who have ever owned a home knows, once you fix one thing, it’s time to fix something else.

Tripp shares that the world we live in is a lot like a broken-down house.  He acknowledges that “sin has ravaged the beautiful house that God created,” then he graciously, and often poetically, reminds the reader, page after page, of the reconciliation, restoration, and hope we have in Christ.  In the last chapter, he aptly summarizes the book’s context:

Yes, you are living in a broken-down house.  Here, you will face discouragement, danger, disappointment, and grief.  There will be times when life will seem overwhelmingly hard…

But you can, beyond any question, live productively in this broken world.  There are things worth living for and things worthy of celebration.  You can, beyond any question, be one of God’s tools of rescue and restoration.

…You can do these things, and know these things, because of grace.”

GRACE is the primary theme of the book.  Grace is the only way we can live in this world, or have hope for the next.   Here’s one of my favourite passages:

Grace is the most transformational word in Scripture.  The entire Bible is a narrative of God’s grace, a story of undeserved redemption.  By the transformational power of his grace, God unilaterally reaches into the muck of this fallen world, through the presence of His Son, and radically transforms his children from what we are (sinners) to what we are becoming by his power (Christ-like).  The famous Newton hymn uses the best word possible for that grace, amazing!

Broken-Down House not only encourages the reader of the need for grace in this less-than-perfect world, but also challenges believers to action.  With chapter titles such as, “Reject Passivity,” “Be Good and Angry,” “Determine to Love,” and “Minister Everywhere,”  Tripp confronts us with the fact that (I) we are tools of God’s restoration and reconciliation.  As another Paul said 2000 years ago:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us, we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Broken-Down House is more than a reminder of the state of this dilapidated world.  Through it, Tripp provokes us to “live productively in a world gone bad,” and “to fight the urge to give in or give up.  [God] calls you to live with perseverance now and invest wholeheartedly in what is to come! ” 

Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

 

Presently reading/next to be reviewed:   The Pilgrim’s Progress: From this World to that Which is To Come, John Bunyan.  Edited by C.J. Lovik