Friday, December 31, 2010


While driving in the city one day, I noticed a very dirty white van with the business inscription on the side, Compulsive Cleaners. Would you give them your business? Well, probably not!

With what label do we identify ourselves? Do others see us that way? If we carry the name Christian, or Christ’s servant, we should bear a resemblance to him and to his likeness revealed in the Bible.

Many counterfeit Christ followers walk around out there, drive through our city streets, comfortably sit in our church pews, even boldly occupy our pulpits. The Scriptures dub Satan as a Masquerader of Light. And, not surprising, Satan's servants sometimes masquerade as Servants of Righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


God doesn’t intend us to be sugar bowls, but teapots with a spout, out of which we pour blessing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Simple Gifts

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all...When you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. Psalm 104:24, 28.

Out they came, mouths open, tongues out, excitement showing on every face. I stood by the front door doing my daily end-of-the-day bus duty. As though playing from some script, over and over again, the children ran out of school into the new snow with the same reaction. Cries of delight, eyes skyward, they couldn’t have been happier.

The adults reacted with far less joy. We complained and worried about the drive home, finding nothing so gleeful in it. I wonder which group pleased the Lord more. He must have watched with pleasure as the children enjoyed this gift He’d brought to an otherwise ho-hum school day. As I watched their reaction and delight, God reminded me not only of His wonderful creation, but His way with children. He gives us their happy spirits to remind us of simple pleasures, of beauty He provides around us constantly. Thank you, Lord, for revealing the beauty that I wouldn’t have seen except for these open-mouthed, gleeful children.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Improbable Deliverance

There stood the nation of Israel. The whole thing! The Red Sea foamed in front of them and the Egyptian army pursued them from behind. What an amazing deliverance God planned for them, and no wonder Moses told the people to remember and teach this story to their children for all generations.

From this remarkable story we find that:

  1. God times His deliverance in a way that darkens and confuses the enemy, but brings the most glory to Himself. He does this by showing deliverance in the light of day. In the experience of Israel, it happened at daybreak.
  2. God leads us, not by the common road, but by an impossible route only He can know.
  3. God lifts up His servant-leaders who obey Him in the eyes of His people, verifying their place of leadership.

By what impossible pathway has God led you? Look for an improbable, even impossible deliverance!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sometimes it seems that God is all we have. Our only hope, our only companion, whatever. That’s not so bad! Remember he is all-sufficient, all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, all-mighty and altogether lovely. And because we know Christ, we have it all!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Lamb?

One of the teachers in my elementary school lived on a farm and brought in a spring lamb one day for her fourth graders. The lamb stayed in a small child’s plastic pool for the day, and the other classes took turns coming in for a look. The younger the classes, the more they seemed to enjoy spending time with the lamb.

The next school year, this teacher transferred to first grade. In the spring, children began noticing that she would be having a baby soon. One of the first graders, who had obviously been impressed with the lamb the year before asked, “Mrs. Barber, are you going to have a baby or a lamb?”

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sweep

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

As part of a research project, I asked a classroom aide to visit my classroom on several occasions to make a “sweep” study. My study had to do with the focus of whole classes, and to which activities they paid the most attention. For each activity I did within my half hour class, I supplied a seating chart with four indicators of attentive behavior and four of inattentive. This helper was to watch a child for a couple of seconds, make a plus or minus mark on the page, and then go to the next child, canvassing each child many times throughout an activity. I grouped my various activities into general categories to obtain my results.

Based on this anecdotal research, I was able to produce some findings about individual students, about interest in my diverse activities, and about various whole classes. Some conclusions I expected to find, but others surprised me. I learned that when I was caught up in teaching, I sometimes concluded incorrectly.

We can be sure though, that God sees all with absolute attention and true conclusions. Not only does he look at the outward appearance, but he also looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7). Unlike some annoying students who always looked inattentive, but could answer every question correctly that I posed to them, God sees not only our actions, but also our heart motivation. May this fact serve us as a comfort or a warning!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mercy Me, Mabel!

Concert season in public school always stretched me to the max. Not only did I plan the music and train my choirs, but I usually accompanied them too (in later years using a pre-recorded digital piano). I developed the programs, which my creative husband desk-top published for me, had them printed through the school print shop, ordered the choral risers and oversaw their placement, set up the sound system and sent letters to parents with expectations, etc.

The day of the program, I would set up the 75 chairs I needed in my classroom for the choir when they arrived for warm-ups and line-up. I welcomed them and their families before the concert, and had the sole responsibility for supervising the children and keeping them relatively quiet and focused before they went to the auditorium.

Once in awhile, I had a teacher there to help me on the night of the program, but very seldom. Some years the principal didn’t even show up for the concert! I simply assumed accountability for EVERYTHING.

Now in my retirement, I direct two smaller children’s choirs at my church. I also am the church organist and play in the adult bell choir. When my children sing, I can’t watch them, worry about whether they get robes on and off, and if they get back to sit with parents when they finish singing.

I have some wonderful helpers. They organize the children, supervise them, discipline them when necessary, robe them and line them up according to my instructions. At the time of their presentation in worship or at a concert, I simply step up and conduct them. What a joy to realize this kind of support!

Some leaders find it hard to relinquish any control over their constituents. They somehow feel that they lose respect, or loyalty of the group because other people use their gifts to help them. What a mistake! What I’ve learned from this situation is that a good leader knows how to relinquish control to capable people, and to gratefully accept the assistance. Mercy me, Mabel! It’s not all about you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surprise! Surprise!

Moses deserved better! At least it appeared that way at the end of his story. He had reluctantly accepted God’s assignment to lead his people out of Egypt into Canaan; what must have appeared to Moses to be a short leadership term in comparison to how it actually turned out. He spent 40 years leading God’s stubborn and disobedient people through the wilderness. He judged their disputes, oversaw the building of a tabernacle, and skillfully directed and taught these thousands of Israelites as they traveled.

Now came the time for Moses to finally cross into Canaan—the long awaited dream. In Moses’ own words: At that time I pleaded with the Lord: “O Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand…let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country AND LEBANON”...″That is enough,” the Lord said, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, SINCE YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CROSS THIS JORDAN.” (Deuteronomy 3:23f—NIV emphasis mine). See, Moses had disobeyed the Lord in anger at one point, and God had told him he had ruined his chances for going into Canaan.

But, imagine Moses’ surprise when almost two thousand years later he stood in the Holy Land for the first time at Jesus’ Transfiguration. We recognize Peter, James and John’s astonishment over the events of that day. But, consider Moses! He appeared there too. Bible scholars believe the mountain on which they stood was Mt. Hermon which stands in northern Israel overlooking Lebanon.

Maybe you think a dream of yours will never come to pass. Or, that God can’t or won’t fulfill some promise you have waited and prayed and believed for. Remember, he is the God of the Ages. He sees far more than we ever can, and has wonderful plans for all of us that will surprise us!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stirring the Squash

I hated squash as a child. But, my parents always made me take “one bite.” Trouble was, I sometimes gagged and I couldn’t bring myself to even taste the stuff. So, to solve the problem the best way I knew how, I would stir the squash around on my plate and make it look like I had tried it.

Now that I am grown, I have met people who operate with this kind of tactic in their work. They want to appear as competent employees, doing their jobs well, and performing to everyone’s satisfaction. However, like my behavior when I was a child, they have learned to “stir the squash.”

Under pressure from the Board of Education over low test scores, a school superintendant announces he will add 15 minutes to the length of the school day. Trouble was, he only lengthened the day for staff. The students’ schedule was tied to the bus company’s time constraints. He had stirred the squash.

As a secretary, the young woman rushed around the office, the picture of efficiency whenever anyone asked for her help. Yet, she NEVER met deadlines, and made promises to everyone that she never intended to fulfill. She dropped off her work for other secretaries to finish, in her mad rush to get on to something more fun. She learned how to stir the squash.

When we run into these kinds of people, we should let their examples teach us. If all we want is to make a good impression, then we can stir the squash too. However, if we want our work to reflect our character, we need to take our “bite” out of the work and do what we can to remain honest and competent.


The word “surrounded” carries with it both a terrifying and a comforting connotation. A suspect in a crime, when surrounded by numbers of law enforcement officers usually has no way out. An army surrounded by the enemy stands in a very dangerous situation.

Yet, when surrounded by love and care, a person can thrive and live well. Scripture refers to God as surrounding his people and speaks of the ways his goodness comes to them. Psalm 37:7 says that God surrounds us in trouble with songs of deliverance. Psalm 5:12 speaks of God surrounding the righteous with favor. In Psalm 125:2 we read about the permanence of God’s surrounding love, like the mountains that stand around Jerusalem.

Elisha’s servant felt alone, and when God showed him the hills full of horses and chariots of fire, he knew he was surrounded by the Lord’s protection. (2 Kings 6:16-17). Hebrews 12:1 assures us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses to inspire us to perseverance.

Whatever need you have today, remember that God has thought of everything, and has a way of surrounding you with every grace imaginable. Even when armies of evil or trouble look to destroy you, God is able to shield you and keep you safe.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doodyville and Friends

Those of us from the early Boomers remember the Howdy Doody Show on black and white T.V. My sister and I loved to watch Buffalo Bob Smith and his puppet friends, Howdy, Flub-a-Dub, and the live characters Chief Thundercloud, Princess Summerfall Winterspring,  and of course, Clarabell the clown. I was always intrigued by the name of the mayor of Doodyville, Mr. Phineas T. Bluster. He had eyebrows that shot straight up when he was surprised and his grumpy nature never changed.

Imagine my surprise when I read about another Phinehas in scripture. His story can be found in Numbers 25. His anger over the practices of the Israelites, called by God’s name, caused him to act against their sin. In Numbers 25:10 we read, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Phinehas son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore, tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.’”

Zeal, a word Scripture extols, is a word that we don’t use very often. It means “passion” and Paul told us in Romans 12:11 to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” When Jesus got angry over the money changers in the temple, his disciples referred back to Psalm 69:9 and said, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

Now before we go wrecking furniture or polishing our spears, we do have a warning in Proverbs 19:2. “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the mark.” We see a live example of zeal without knowledge in the life of Peter. One example was his suggestion to build shelters on the Mount of Transfiguration. I have to think, though, that Jesus especially loved Peter for this characteristic of zeal in his Christian life. Paul was zealous too, without knowledge, and killed Christians before he himself met Jesus on the way to Damascus. But his zeal as a Christian helped establish the church.

These negative examples should not frighten us from passionately doing God’s work. God loves those who guard the honor of His name and courageously fight to hold His banner high. And that’s no bluster!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing in the Bell Choir

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

I play high G and A in the bell choir. Because I have access only to those notes (and their flats and sharps), I cannot play a piece of music alone. To successfully play a melody, I need the help of my co-players. None of us has a more important part than any other. We all need each other. The team work involved means helping each other with page turns, giving assistance when a neighbor needs a third hand, and staying together with the director.

Chaos would ensue if everyone played at his or her own speed, or ignored other players. Like the Body of Christ, we need each other’s part, each other’s help, each other’s contribution. When one member is absent, a piece of the puzzle is missing—the melody just isn’t complete.

God has designed his Body like a bell choir. None of us can brag that we don’t need each other. A beautiful expression of our love for Christ comes alive when we TOGETHER offer ourselves as his instruments.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8 NIV

I had some unbelievably obnoxious students. They stood out in the crowd. Teachers all knew them and saw them coming. Yet, we had a duty to teach them, to treat them fairly, and, if we named Christ, to love them. My patience was tried every day for the boy that always disrupted by sitting in someone else’s chair, or who yelled out, or made noises, or stood on the desk. Or the girl that danced around behind me or loved to jump up when I turned my back.

Yet, the Bible says God loved us, even when we lived in defiance of him. Henry Law said of us sinners: “Everything in them is calculated to excite alienation.”

God’s unbelievable love reaches out to us anyway. His love is greater than our sin, even at our most ugly moments. In his, Great House of God, Max Lucado states, “Knowing full well the trouble you would be, and the price He would pay, He signed His name next to yours and changed your name to His and took you home.”

This kind of love ought to inspire us to love those we find difficult. With God’s grace, he makes this kind of love possible.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pet Peeves

  1. Why does my microwave oven beep every 30 seconds after the food is ready, and my conventional oven timer beeps only once?
  2. The use of “bring” and “take:” A person “takes” a package to the post office, but “brings” one in the house from the front porch.
  3. Grammar in general: Don’t get me started.
  4. The page-turns for the organist in choir music: Editors seem to like to punish organists at page turns with registration and key changes, while the choir pauses between verses.
  5. Shrink wrap: Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MY Students

I can remember the day that my teaching changed for the better. For several years, my elementary school had multiple music teachers, all assigned elsewhere, and filling their schedules with classes at my school. I also had a chunk of the classes. This worked all right on paper. The children all received their twice a week 30 minutes of music instruction. Yet, every year they might have a different music teacher who had his or her own style and lesson materials. Although the curriculum among all of us teachers might have been the same, we still needed to catch up the children with our strategies and classroom procedures.

Then one year, the administration assigned me full time at “my” elementary school. Although before I had the major piece of this school, now I had it all. I could claim these 350+ students as MINE. I would be acquainted with what I had taught them and what they were expected to know from year to year. If I slipped up in teaching them in some area, it would show up in their learning. Likewise, my strengths as a teacher would show through as I saw these children year after year throughout elementary school.

The knowledge of this made me proud and I took more of a personal interest in each child. I also felt a great deal of gratification when the oldest children sang well, or chose to continue with their music education with an instrument after they left me.

God must be like that too. He didn’t just want students. He wanted us to belong to him. In that way he watches our progress, takes pride in our faithfulness to him, and someday will present us to his Father in Heaven. He calls us HIS people, HIS children, HIS servants, HIS followers, even HIS workmanship! How privileged we are to have that kind of loving attention and ownership. Praise be to God!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Grease Monkey

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

I took the car to the service station to fill the tires with air. What would appear to most people as a simple task proved to be outside the norm for me. After I filled the first tire, I noticed the grime on my hand, and it didn’t improve as I worked to fill the others. When I got home, I realized not only did I have black gunk all over my hands, but in smudges on my new coat as well. I defiled everything I touched!

I want the Lord to find me acceptable as his servant. Just as I had to clean up myself before I could begin my tasks of making the bed, or cooking, God requires clean hands before we attempt our service for him. Even though he may have cleansed our sinful hearts many years ago, our hands get filthy from touching the world. He wants purity in his servants, rather than the filth of the world.

God is willing to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness when we come to him. Before you begin your work for him today, make sure your hands are clean!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rolled Away

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Joshua 5:9

Have you ever felt like the Enemy has you in a cave from which you can’t escape? And, just to make sure you can’t get out, does it feel like he has rolled a stone in front of the door. “There,” he says. “No exit!” Circumstances seem totally against you. Against his strong armed tactics you know how weak you are. The truth has been covered up in so many ways that it seems it will never come out, and you will never see deliverance.

In a situation like this, remember two Bible stories. The story of Daniel in the lion’s den speaks of this kind of impossible retreat. Not only did his enemies throw him in the hole, they placed a heavy stone over the opening. Even if Daniel had attempted an escape, the stone doubled his incapability. Yet, God allowed Daniel to triumph, and brought him out alive.

The resurrection story also speaks of a large stone placed over the door of a cave by Jesus’ enemies, in order to make his escape impossible, or a rescue. A dead body hidden in a cave with a stone sealing the entrance assured the plans and cover-up of those who thought they had the power in this situation. Yet, God rolled away that stone too!

Hidden evil, cover-ups, strong armed schemes of man hold no power over the will of our Almighty God. Thank him, and look for his rescue. He can roll the stone away for you, just as he did for Daniel and for his only Son.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beyond Cute

Children are cute. No doubt about it. But, msguided adults, even certified music teachers, think this quality trumps all others when it comes to preparing children for musical performance. The most telling measure of this thinking shows up in the printed program of a children’s concert. It also shows up in the expectations (or lack of them) from parents and music directors when putting a group of children in front of an audience (or church congregation).

The literature chosen for children speaks volumes about the musical standards for this age performing group. It remains my view that children can sing far better music (though not necessarily harder) than directors often teach them. I also believe that children can appreciate far better music than adults think they can. The leader who respects the children in his or her choir enough to choose worthy music will reap the rewards of these youngsters enjoying and feeling pride in their abilities to make “real” music. Children can sing fun pieces as one of many on a balanced program, but making the whole program out of these reminds me of a meal consisting only of desserts.

Children also can sing with good posture, attentiveness to a conductor, and with good pitch and rhythm. One group of singers I once witnessed wandered about the platform and had to be “corralled” by their teachers long enough to get through their numbers. This kind of performance, excused by the expression, “Aren’t they cute?” just doesn’t allow children the dignity they deserve and the standards that we should hold for them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Land of the Living

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

Have you had times in your life when you felt like you lived in the land of death? I remember struggling with the health and deteriorating mental state of my mother-in-law living in our home. When she died, the Lord spoke to me from this verse.

My husband’s health problems over a period of 12 years caused us to live in a constant world of hospital corridors, lab technicians, surgeons, and too many office visits with doctors to count. Add to this the wound care at home and the scary trips to the Emergency Room. Now that his health seems stable, I remember this verse.

Sometimes during a particularly long and difficult period of deadly emotional turmoil, this verse can serve to encourage us. God doesn’t intend for us to live in the land of death. We can be confident that he will bring us, through his goodness, back into the land of the living: music, singing, children, laughter, purpose, health. Praise be to his name.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Modern Musical Terms

●Adagio Fromaggio: To play in a slow and cheesy manner.
●AnDante: A musical composition that is infernally slow.
●Angus Dei: To play with a divine, beefy tone.
●Anti-phonal: Referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall.
●A Patella: Unaccompanied knee-slapping.
●Appologgiatura: A composition, solo or instrument, you regret playing.

Shining Faces

Psalm 19 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Psalm 8 says, speaking of God, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” But then it goes on to add, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Could it be that we share in God’s glory? Some say that glory is just grace “grown up.” Moses’ face shined with God’s glory when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Does God still fill his people with that kind of visible glory? Yes. I believe that God intends us to bear witness even in our countenances.

Just like a mirror, we need to reflect God’s glory, but we must pay close attention to the cleanness of the glass. Ask God today to cleanse and shine his image in you, so that everywhere you go he can declare his glory through you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Playing School

My father picked up an old school desk at an auction and it provided me many hours as a pretend teacher. Sometimes I practiced on my little sister and cousin, or playmates. Most often, however, a doll or stuffed animal played the part of student. I would use the blackboard and imagine how much I would enjoy teaching.

Fifteen or so years later, I actually did become a teacher, and found myself in front of classes of children. In the first years of my professional life, it seemed that the lessons themselves concerned me the most. I would spend hours calculating how children would enjoy the lessons, and what content I would present. I actually did develop pretty good lessons in those years, and felt satisfied with my teaching.

However, as I grew older and more experienced, something else took on more importance than finely crafted lesson plans. I began pondering and reflecting on my teaching to see if the students actually learned the material I produced. Did what I presented yield knowledgeable and skillful learners or did the students only play the part like my dolls?

Over the years I have observed teachers and even preachers who can expound on their subject with interest and skill, but who never seem to care if their learners actually learn. If you teach or preach, consider the results. Do your students actually show progress or are you just playing school together?  

Friday, October 29, 2010

Prayer Requests

The Preacher was calling for prayer requests. He urged that folk pray faithfully for those names and needs being called out. "Yes, let’s pray for John’s new job; don’t forget Brother Carlson’s bad cold, and let’s continue to hold Sister Smith’s leg up in prayer."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Load

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Whenever they left the classroom, Marion Peters assigned one of her third graders the task of carrying her purse. Now, Marion didn’t travel “light,” as they say. She always had a hefty bag, often with a long shoulder strap. I comically watched the children struggling to hold the purse off the floor as they made their way down the hallway. But, for some reason, they loved to do this for her. And, Marion trusted them, even though her bag contained her most necessary and personal items.

Jesus gives us the task of carrying some of His most prized possessions too. When He left us to go to Heaven, He left the Church to carry His responsibilities in the world. He has left us to reconcile the world back to Him, an awesome burden. He has commissioned us to teach all nations about Himself. He has left us to love and serve others in His name—to carry their burdens. He has trusted us with an incredible task.

Do you count it a privilege to take up Christ’s burdens today? He has called us to a most noble task in his name.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Untapped Riches

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV

Edna Farnsworth (not her real name) lived in a large house on an avenue of wealthy estates, many with servants’ quarters. Among these houses also sat the Governor’s mansion. This street of beautiful homes framed our church lot and Edna was a frequent guest with us. Now she never attended a service, but came often to borrow books from our library. She also managed to find out when the church scheduled various receptions with dainty foods, and showed up to pile up her plate (and purse). Apparently Edna didn’t want to admit her wealth, or had become miserly in her old age.

How many of us have received the richness of God’s grace through forgiveness of sin and have a place FOREVER in his family, but forget to appropriate and appreciate it? We feel more comfortable, like Edna, borrowing and begging rather than boldly living like children of the King. Let us today remember our riches in Christ and rejoice in his goodness to us!

Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Wealth that can never be told!
Riches exhaustless of mercy and grace,
Precious, more precious than gold!
by Fanny Crosby

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Call

In my distress, I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…The earth trembled and quaked,…Smoke rose from his nostrils,…He parted the heavens and came down…He reached down from on high and took hold of me;…He rescued me from my powerful enemy. Psalm 18:6-17 NIV

My little sister and I walked home every school day from the bus-stop, a quarter mile up the road from my father’s dairy farm. One day I took off for home, but my sister lagged behind, taking her time. A car, carrying a stranger stopped to engage her in conversation. And she, a lively talkative child, responded. My father, near the barn, saw this interaction, and before I could turn around and see the predicament, he took off running down the road toward the bus-stop. The stranger, seeing him on his way shouting to my sister, drove on.

I have thought about that incident many times when reading Psalm 18. God watches us, listens for our cries, and responds to protect us in times of danger. Sometimes we know that help immediately. Other times, though, it seems he hasn’t heard us, and we wait to see if help will ever arrive. We can be sure, however, that he DOES see, and watches over us in tender care. If he needs to come running, he does, sometimes in the nick of time.

If you call God your Father, be assured that He will shield and protect you. I'm reminded of the lyrics of Carole King, “Just call on my name, and you’ll know wherever I am, I’ll come running.”

Monday, October 25, 2010


And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15 NIV

My little brother disliked peas. He therefore devised a solution that seemed good to him. He hid them under the lip of his plate. There! Now he couldn’t see them and he wouldn’t have to eat them. Trouble was, the rest of us at the table could easily see the little green monsters, and quickly discovered his plot.

St. Paul in Ephesians tells us that we have an Enemy who plots to do us harm with his schemes. These schemes threaten us so sharply that God has provided spiritual weapons with which to fight against all of Satan’s authorities and powers. They can hide, but they will be exposed by the One who sees all. He means for us to see victory through him. Not only does he fit us with armor for the fight, but reminds us that he has already defeated this Enemy on the cross by disarming him IN PUBLIC!

When you see the Enemy and his plotters nearby, grab the armor of God and rest in the word of our Almighty God, the God of Hosts, who by a word can expose the Enemy and bring him to his knees!  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Singing in Choir

"My favorite part of chorus is when we sing a song and we all forget who's popular and who's not, who's rich and who's poor, who has the best clothes and who doesn't, who has the best voice and who can barely carry a tune, and we can all sing a song and get along and be friends regardless of whether we get along. And we make a song and sound so good that we just want to die right then. That's the best part. That's the greatest reason for singing in this choir."
--Reannon Peterson, 9th Grade
Kettle Moraine High School, Wales, Wisconsin
in Kid's Voices, 1996 MENC

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dear God:

Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother.



You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. Isaiah 25:4

The rain that November relentlessly fell. Umbrellas sat in corners never getting dried out. Children’s coats dripped water all over the already saturated closet carpets. Buckets sat in the hallways under leaks in the roof. Moods of adults and children alike mirrored the dreary weather. When would it end? There seemed no end in sight, and what did we have to look forward to but more dreary days ahead filled with rain, or worse yet, snow.

Maybe life for you feels like these school day trials. Just when one problem seems resolved, up pops another. Weariness has become a way of life, and there seems no relief from the relentless onslaught. Satan often throws his darts at us too, taking advantage of our weakened state. But, we DO have a refuge. So many times in Scripture God assures us that He will hide us under His wing, (Psalm 91) in His hand, (Isaiah 51:16) and in the shelter of the Rock (Psalm 31).

God wants to speak to us through the storm, as He did to Job, so that we might know Him better. When faced with overwhelming trials, trust Him to protect you until the storm is passed.

When the storms of life are raging stand by me.
When the storms of life are raging stand by me.
When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.*

*by C.A. Tindley ã 1905

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Developing Eagles' Wings

The mother eagle teaches her little ones to fly by making their nest so uncomfortable that they are forced to leave it and commit themselves to the unknown world of air outside. And just so does our God to us. He stirs up our comfortable nests, and pushes us over the edge of them, and we are forced to use our wings to save ourselves from fatal falling. Read your trials in this light, and see if you cannot begin to get a glimpse of their meaning. Your wings are being developed. —Hannah Whitall Smith

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Walking By Faith

You were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Deuteronomy 1:26-27.

My husband walks with two canes. I can only offer him help with doors, or steps if I stay with him. If I want to have any kind of conversation with him while we walk along, I must slow my pace to match his. Otherwise, if I speak, I am so far ahead of him he can’t hear me, or I am unable to hear him because he lags behind me. It takes hard work to stay with him and curb my impatience.

Similarly, the Israelites found it easier to remember their past life in Egypt (“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”) or even to look forward to Canaan than to trust God and His servant Moses day to day in the wilderness. These travelers felt bound by the Cloud by Day and the Fire by Night and knew they needed to move only when God told them to. They hated the manna they had to eat because they compared it to the tasty fare they enjoyed in Egypt. In addition, they were constantly hearing about the land “flowing with milk and honey” to which they were headed.

Maybe you feel hampered in your walk of faith. Perhaps you have much “behind” you that you feel you have lost. Perhaps you, like the Israelites, remember the good, but conveniently forget the difficulties of what you have left behind. And, perhaps you look forward, no doubt with a bit cloudier vision, but with a longing for a new season of life.

Today, ask the God of grace to fit you for the journey with a new kind of perseverance. Your steps are ordered by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23 KJV). He knows where you’ve come from and where He is taking you. In order to get His direction and receive the help He constantly has to offer you, you need to walk beside Him, not before or behind. This requires the daily gathering of manna (His word) for nourishment, and the hopeful waiting and watching for the signs that He wants to move you forward. Stay in faith today.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

The June Cleavers Among Us

The death of Barbara Billingsley (the mom on Leave it to Beaver), led me to remember a thought I had several years back. June Cleaver (her TV name) always dressed in pretty dresses and high heels to do her housework. She was a nurturing, perfect mother figure. As I see it, music teachers play the June Cleavers of the teaching profession. You can see them before and during concerts dragging risers around, moving pianos, oiling trumpets, and setting up chairs while wearing their concert best. Often they take wrinkle producing trips with their performing groups by school bus all the while dressed in their finery. AND, they nurture children and young people in the finer things of life, just like June Cleaver! Salutes to music teachers everywhere!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Prayer for the Choir Year

Heavenly Father,
            We come to you who made the morning stars sing together with the angels at the Creation. We come to you, who composed songs through your people for Old Testament worship, and who ordained praise from all you have given breath--He who sent the angels with a song to announce the birth of your Son, and who remembers the Disciples singing a hymn on the night of your Son’s arrest.
            We thank you that you have given us the gift of singing, and allow us to lift up praise to your glory and for the edification of your people. Thank you for the beauty we enjoy, the truth we can share, and the work you do in our lives through the music we present.
            Like the ancient Levites, purify us for this year ahead, that we may offer our gifts of music in righteousness. Anoint us for service, bless us with your joy, and transform us by this holy ministry we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

All For Jesus

All for Jesus, all for Jesus! All my being's ransomed powers:
All my tho'ts and words and doings, All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform His bidding, Let my feet run in His ways;
Let my eyes see Jesus only, Let my lips speak forth His praise.

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I've lost sight of all beside;
So enchained my spirit's vision, Looking at the Crucified.

Oh, what wonder! how amazing! Jesus, glorious King of Kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved, Lets me rest beneath His wings.
 --Mary D. James

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ordained for Praise

From the lips of children you have ordained praise. Psalm 8:2

The fall had brought a beautiful mix of children to my church choirs and I had prepared them to sing for a Sunday worship service. They came polished and ready to robe and warm-up. One last minute comment I made to them before we lined up to enter the sanctuary must have resonated with one of my beginning singers. After the service his mom came to me and reported that with great excitement he had come to her and exclaimed, “Mom, we sang for God!”

Oh, that we could all remember why we prepare, and what makes singing in church different from any other choral experience. We don’t sing for parents, grandparents, or even congregation members, although God richly blesses the people of God through the gifts of children. God is our primary audience, and we should remember that His applause matters more than that of any other.

From the creation forward, God has made us all for the purpose of bringing Him glory. What a joy to offer our songs to Him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Noble Purposes

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Organ pipes, carved piano legs, a smooth inlaid tabletop, a Stradivarius violin, a Native American canoe. What do these objects have in common? Though made of wood, they serve ordinary purposes. They offer beauty as well as function because a master craftsman has carved and worked them. In a word, they serve nobly.

Until recently, I believed that these scripture verses about the various materials urged us as Christians to aspire to become like gold and silver articles, not as wood or clay, because they served somehow more nobly. I struggled with this, because no matter how hard I worked, others always seemed to possess greater gifts, receive higher honors, and seemingly provide greater usefulness. How could I ever hope to offer the Lord gold or silver when all I seemed to contribute looked more like wood?

Then it occurred to me to study the passage a little deeper. Does the Lord make everyone with gifts of gold or silver? Or, has he created some as wood or clay for different, but still noble purposes? Some gifts serve more practical purposes, more everyday uses; some sparkle as show pieces. But, God can use both for noble purposes, if we allow Him to cleanse and make us holy for any good work He chooses.

If you feel more like a piece of wood than gold or silver, take heart. The Master Carpenter waits to carve you into a beautiful object, useful to Him for His purposes. Take delight in the object He crafts of your life!