Sing!

Sing!

I am honored to introduce “SING!” by my friend, Paul Knight, who is a music producer in London, England.  As a vocal coach for over thirty years and, as a consultant, senior lecturer and vocal coach, he knows exactly how singers should be keeping their voice in perfect condition. This is a tool I wish I’d had in days gone by when I sang with a Sweet Adelines Chorus, as we warmed up to practice or perform.  Whether one is an amateur or professional, this is a wonderful resource.  Below are some scriptures about singing to the Lord, some of Paul’s insights about singing, and a description of the product as well as links:

Psalm 33:1
Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones;

Psalm 96:1-2
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Psalm 9:11
Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds.

Psalm 104:33
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

Psalm 89:1
I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.

Revelation 15:3-4
And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Singing is an important part of our identity. Without it we are not complete. The scriptures tell us to sing to the Lord – because He loves the sound of our voices. After all – He created them!

As we sing, we change atmospheres. The singers were sent out first into battle. Singing is for everyone. Not for a few special people. It releases the ‘feel good’ chemicals. It necessitates deeper breathing which is a stress reducer. Singing gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation. The benefits are amazing – and God knew that. It soothes you and elevates your spirit.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. Singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.

So how many of us are ashamed of our singing voice? Or have been told to be quiet, or to sit at the back and mime? All clever attacks on the voice, which diminish us from being fully who we are.

Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Ephesians 5:18-19: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”

We are commanded to sing. When we sing – we are obeying God. We dig deeply in to the Word of God. It dwells in us richly. We build up others, and we glorify God. It couldn’t be better.

Sing! is a series of exercises which is used by singers of all abilities. The exercises build confidence, strength, and explain clearly how to connect to your voice and let it soar.

It comes complete with a download card so you can have all the exercises on your ipad, computer or phone. Each exercise is exampled by two professional West End singers, Michael Rouse and Lizzie Dean. These exercises have been compiled by Paul Knight who has over thirty years experience of releasing voices, specifically the voices of those who believe they cannot sing.

These exercises are gentle, but help place the voice where it should be, and build gradually into a complete workout for the voice and the engine room of the diaphragm.

Each exercise is clearly explained and demonstrated.
Each exercise covers all ranges.

Sing! is available online. In the UK use MusicRoom.com and Amazon.co.uk
In North America use use Boosey.com and Amazon.com

Remember it is good for you to be heard…..Sing!

 

Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

 

Do it Again!

IMG_1241“Again! Again!” my small granddaughters squeal with delight as we play “upside down girl,” with me lifting them up by their ankles as I used to do with their brother. I tire of the game much faster than they do, for with every visit they’re a little bigger and a little heavier, so before too long our game will end. But I wonder if my joy in their exuberant fun is anything like what God feels when I plead for more from Him.

These are my thoughts as I ponder the past week of “games” the Lord has provided for me. You see, He has created me to love puzzles and my idea of fun is unraveling His mysteries.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

One way we “play” is that He gives me dreams to interpret in order to understand what He is doing; sometimes they’re mine and sometimes they come from friends, which is fun because I then have the privilege of helping them figure out what the Lord is saying. In the past 7 days, I’ve had personal dreams that led to unexpected deliverance that I didn’t even know I needed, insight into His plans/purposes/protection, instructions that I knew I’d received in my spirit even though the memories faded quickly when I awake, and times of knowing I’d been co-operating with Him to accomplish unknown tasks in the heavenly realms while asleep. I’ve also been honored to help several friends understand the encouragement and guidance of their own dreams. With each instance, my heart cries out for more. Do it again, Lord! Do it again!

He will fly away like a dream and not be found;
he will be chased away like a vision of the night. Job 20:8

For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds. Job 33:14-15

It’s also been a week in which we’ve had a lot of “scavenger hunts” for nuggets of His truth; for His puzzle pieces that form a greater understanding of Him even before those nuggets were known by me to be necessary. Time after time, He has taken me to specific scriptures that were relevant for something that would occur later in the day or week; for conversations or events that He knew were coming even I was still clueless. In awe over His foresight each time I cry, “Again!”

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way. Psalm 119:97-98, 103-104

This was a week in which I attended several “parties,” otherwise known as gatherings of believers. Each instance was delightful, either because of the fellowship or because of the wondrous new insights I gained into what God is doing throughout both the earthly and heavenly places. Current events as reported by any news media pales in comparison to current events as revealed through communion with God and His people. More, Lord, more; please do it again!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Fortunately, unlike me with my grandchildren, God never tires of my pleas of, “Again! Again!” I’ll never become too big or too mature for Him to call a halt to our games, and I know that He delights in my joy in Him.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

A Response to Terrorism

277359-20151124Have you watched the news today? Undoubtedly, there’s a report of a new terrorist act somewhere in the world. Last week it was in Paris. This week, nations are on edge as threats abound and warnings are issued here, there, and everywhere. Surely we are experiencing the terrible times of which Jesus spoke when lawlessness increases and the love of many grows cold, the end times when betrayal and hatred run rampant in our streets. All around, His words come to life before our very eyes:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake…And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:16-17,25-26

Sounds pretty bad, huh? And, of course, it is! But it’s not the end of the world quite yet, and we must not focus on the abounding terror but on the One who is ultimately going to bring it all to an end on the Day of the Lord. He has not left us un-prepared or without hope, and He is sufficient in even the most desperate of times. But what does that look like? There’s a perfect example in the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who became Queen of Persia, which is, interestingly, the region we know as Iran.  It’s also interesting to note that those Persians of long-ago were just as violent and cruel as are the radical jihadists of today.

In summary, in his hatred of the Jews, Haman initiated a plan to have them all wiped from the face of  the earth and the king approved it for Haman was a highly favored and trusted official. Esther 4:3-17:

And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. 

Can there be any doubt that Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish people were in mortal danger? Can there be any doubt that the terror they faced was very much like that which is seen today? I don’t think so.

So, what was their reaction? It was one we should model as we enter into mourning, prayer and fasting, and seeking the Lord for His sufficiency in our own time of trouble. We do have hope, for just look at how our amazing God stepped in when His servants humbled themselves and took a stand for righteousness, regardless of the potential consequences.

Previously, Mordecai had learned of a plot to kill the king and had saved his life. His action had been recorded but has seemingly escaped the memory of the king. Meanwhile, Haman had come to hate Mordecai more than any other Jew and even the sight of him made him very angry so he built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, but on the very night before he approached the king about it, God intervened (Esther 6:1-11).

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows[i] that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”

Talk about God’s perfect timing! And what delicious irony, as the bad guy had to parade the good guy through the streets of the city proclaiming the king’s favor over his enemy; favor he thought should have been his.

Long story short…well, not really very long because Esther is only ten chapters…not only did Mordecai and Esther survive, but so did all of the Jewish people. And even more, the king granted permission for them to avenge themselves against their enemies and 75,000 unrighteous haters of God’s people were destroyed.

Our King is coming, and His arrival is imminent. Nobody can say exactly when that will be, but it is certain that all of the signs of the end of which Jesus warned are manifesting now. Let’s not allow our hearts to fail us from fear, but let’s rise up and stand in faith in our God. He is always sufficient and His timing is always absolutely perfect.

God’s Voice

BibleHow easy it is to take things for granted until, suddenly, they disappear—jobs, friends, health, finances, and on and on. Not long ago, I experienced this firsthand as laryngitis ravaged my throat and I lost the ability to talk. In a positive sense, perhaps it could be viewed as one way to guard my tongue and avoid saying things better left unsaid; but I could also seek out what the Lord might want to teach me. So I looked up scriptures relating to ‘voice’, and was impressed anew by the majesty and power of our God. Though He sometimes speaks so quietly we may miss His message, it’s not because he has laryngitis but because He wants us to listen carefully for His words. He wants us to tune out the things of the world and carefully heed His voice:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13

The voice of God can be quiet and comforting—even conversational at times—but it can also be frightening. The incredible power and majesty of His voice cannot be fully described, but Elihu and David gave it a pretty good shot:

At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place. Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. Job 37:1-5

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”  Psalm 29:3-9

To heed God’s voice results in blessings, but destruction comes when He is ignored or denied:

If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. 1 Samuel 12:14-15

As the prophet Samuel encouraged the people of Israel to obey God’s voice, so we are also enjoined to listen carefully:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’  As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:7-15

From beginning to end, the Bible illustrates the voice of the Lord as creative, powerful, and true. In Genesis 1, “God said, ‘Let there be…” and creation of the heavens, earth, and all that in on the earth occurred; and in the last chapter of Revelation, He speaks of the end of the world as we know it:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star…Surely I am coming soon.” Revelation 22:16,20

May we hear His voice; may we cherish the words He speaks; and may we agree with John the Apostle, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come.”

Water, Water, Everywhere

Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable. For he draws up the drops of water they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion? Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea. (Job 36:26-30)

 The awesome power and imagination of God is something I often ponder, so when I came across a paper that my son, Kevin, did about sixteen years ago, I was so blessed because every word in it reminded me of God’s greatness, and it felt as if I were reading a beautiful psalm. The writing assignment was an exercise of the stream of consciousness to get thoughts down on paper, so it simply flows from thought to thought as a seamless, unbroken thread. With Kevin’s permission, I share it here now with the hope that it will also draw the reader’s heart to our majestic and creative God.

THE RIVER OF LIFE by Kevin Parker

It’s an amazing thing now that I think about it. So many uses and such great importance. Everywhere you look, everything you feel. Ok, maybe not everything, but pretty darn close. What am I talking about you ask? I’m referring to the very substance that all living things need to survive. No, not oxygen, plants don’t need that. Try again. The sun? Well, I guess most living things need it, but what about all those fish that live miles and miles down deep in the ocean who never see the sunlight? But, you are getting closer. Yep, that’s it—water. You knew that from the beginning didn’t you? Did you know that your body is mostly made up of water? Without it none of us could survive. It keeps us healthy too. Supposedly, we need to drink eight glasses of water per day, or at least that’s what I remember being told when I was little. Do you know anybody who does that consistently? I don’t. Something else interesting that I’ve learned about water. For every cup of coffee or soda a person drinks they need to drink two cups of water to flush out all that junk. You’ll never guess where I learned that—traffic school. It’s funny (well, to me it is) that we use water in so many other ways as well. I mean, it’s a commodity that helps to sustain life. And what do we use it for? To wash that stuff off your shoe from your late afternoon walk in the park. Or to scrub down your car or rinse your dishes. And then, some of us like to jump in it, surf on it, swim in it. Then, there are the people like me, who treat water the same way as every other person, but enjoy it most when I’m not even using it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting alone, or maybe with a friend, just watching the waves come in and go out. As far as the eye can see and even farther, all that’s there is blue. Powerful yet calm, serene, and peaceful. Full of life and changing currents, a world within itself. That is how I see the enormous body of water we call the ocean. Arguably the most soothing, relaxing place on earth, which at any moment with a simple swell becomes the most destructive. There is nothing I enjoy more than to sit and watch our Pacific Sea. Except maybe the rain. Yeah, I like that too. From the gentle mist to the awesome thundering and wailing of an all-out storm. I find that peaceful as well, but at the same time frightening. It’s odd how that is possible. That is, I mean, how you can love and fear a thing at the exact same moment. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt like that? People often talk of the calm before the storm. In my case I suppose I look for the storm. How a phenomenon that is anything but calm, as well as unpredictable and untamed, can bring me peace is hard to explain. But to put it simply, just think of what is left over after it rains. A mild drizzle or light shower can wash away the dirt, the smog, the clutter. In its place is one of God’s greatest and most beautiful gifts, the rainbow. Then there is the mighty thundershower that will likely leave some sort of destruction in its wake. Sure, that’s usually a bad thing, but at times it can make way for a rebuilding of a thing that may be even better the second time around. Well maybe this isn’t the perfect metaphor, but if you think about it long enough it begins to fit. “Water, water, everywhere…” I think that was the beginning of a poem I heard once upon a time, but how did the rest of it go? Doesn’t really matter since the first three sum it up pretty well. Water…it’s everywhere. Now if only everything was that straightforward, but that’s another story for another time. Water, in its most beautiful, and simultaneously most powerful form, the waterfall. Quite possibly the world’s greatest natural wonder, at least in my eyes. This would have to be my favorite form of water. Really, I mean it this time. I want one. Where? In my backyard, just past the jungle stream. Why do I find the sight of falling water so magnificent? Couldn’t I experience the same awe at pouring out my glass of water in the cafeteria? I doubt it, but maybe I’ll try it someday. I can’t explain my fascination with the overflow of liquid off the side of a cliff. When analyzed, it’s nothing more than simple physics. But that may be just it! So simple, yet so complex. The ebb and flow of a breaking wave, the “drip-drip-drop” of an April shower, and the awesome and spectacular freefall of a waterfall. Uncontrolled, nearly unstoppable once set into motion. Possibly redirected but never easily dissipated. What does this say about me? What is my connection to this interest? Could it be a way I look at life? Start with a water molecule, H2O. A combination that exists only by the imagination and creativity of God, no matter what a chemistry teacher might say. Add another, and another, and eventually you find yourself in the middle of an ocean. An ocean of what? Of molecules? Maybe, just maybe, they can represent something more. Now, this large body of water doesn’t just sit still. Swells, currents, and rip tides are all generated from the bouncing of individual molecules. Occasionally on the open sea, but more often as you approach the shore, a wave forms and breaks. That’s when you make your decision. Do you surf it? Do you dive under it? Or do you stand your ground and hope not to be knocked back by its overpowering force and be washed away. Sometimes life is like the rain. Soon after clouds fill the sky, the droplets begin to fall. Each drop, as it falls to the ground, is individual and alone on its descent. But, once it hits its destination it blends in with the rest. Sometimes feeding plants with valuable nutrition, but more often creating a run-off that is sucked down the nearest storm drain. Then, of course, there is the mighty waterfall again. Simply put, what can better illustrate the unpredictability of life. One minute you are floating downstream just like everybody else, when you see the drop appear on the horizon. You fight to swim upstream. Sometimes you succeed; more often you don’t. And then there are the times when a helpful friend, who just happens to be standing on the bank carrying a really long rope, saves you, but that’s only if your lucky. Even if you can’t stop the constant flow of the current, there’s the chance you still might be spared–unless you actually fall over the edge. Then, and only then, do you know how far down you will fall. That is, of course, unless you’ve already been over this waterfall, and in that case can be declared legally insane for falling over the same waterfall twice. Or, then again, you could just be unlucky. First, there is the chance you didn’t make it, you didn’t survive the fall. But if you did, it is possible you might just need time to recover before you move on. And then the most desired, but seldom achieved conclusion—coming out unscathed and unhurt. Surviving the fall, full of relief, now knowing not to fall into that part of the river again. But whatever the outcome, the river keeps flowing, life goes on. That is, of course, unless you find yourself stuck in a pond.

The Fall Season of Life

IMG_2528It’s an unusual day for me! I’m up early and out on my patio at the crack of dawn with my Bible, journal and, of course, my morning latte. This is not my normal mode of operation because I’m much more of a night owl than an early bird, and to get my head on straight before 10 AM is a challenge. But this morning I was wide awake an hour before dawn with lucid thoughts of things I need to write chasing themselves around in my head.

So here I sit, enjoying the break of day, as many others do regularly (I must admit to occasional jealousy of their internal clocks). For me, this is a special treat as my senses soak up the sights, sounds and feel of another new beginning. And what a treat to wrap up in my long, soft, warm robe for the first time in months, a favorite garment that has hung unused and seemingly abandoned throughout a seemingly endless Southern California summer. Today though, there’s finally a cool, brisk feeling of Fall, a gentle breeze and a freshness in the air.

As I contemplate Fall, I think not so much of the seasons of the year but of the ever-changing seasons of life, and I reflect on my own. I look at the first preschool pictures of my adorable twin grand-daughters; can it really be only 2 ½ years since they were tiny preemies in the NICU? I think of my son taking his son to kindergarten; can it really be 30 years since I was dropping him off? Or even more astounding (or painful!), can it really be 60 years since my own first day of kindergarten, a memory so fresh it could’ve just happened. And my parents, part of my life for so long; can it really be over a year since Mom died, and 5 ½ years since we lost Dad? It is certain that God’s word is true, and life is brief.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

It is also certain that there are many seasons in life, and each has its appointed place.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

So here I sit on my patio, enjoying a wonderful Fall day while contemplating the Fall of my life, and I know that it’s a season full of promise. When I was just twelve years old, I knew that there was a ministry call on my life, but other seasons intervened and forty years of seasons passed before I began to even have a glimpse of what my ‘calling’ might look like. But then there was a long season of struggle; it was my own, personal dark night of the soul; the season in which God took all that had come before and placed me in His furnace to be refined for His purposes. So now, having gone on Medicare, I guess I’m officially a senior citizen, though I don’t really feel like one inside. It’s a time when many retire to play golf, take extended vacations, and relax; and yet I’m busier than ever, for the Lord has given me a task and there is still much left to be accomplished. It actually seems rather humorous that as a grandmother with two completely separate careers behind me, I’m finally stepping into assignments He planned for me before I was even born.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

Though I have surely entered the Fall of my life, it is a season that feels as new and fresh as this wonderful Fall morning. Yes, my body is aging, a fact quickly proven by a quick glance in a mirror, but it seems that my spirit is just beginning; and there is still much to do.  Psalm 92:12-14 has been a prayer of mine for some time, but my logical focus has been on physical endurance. Today, my sense is that this promise is as much about spiritual strength and productivity as it is physical.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

As I face my Fall season, I have another prayer as well:

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

And also a declaration:

That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)