Under the Grace

Green hills

Today I want to showcase two older songs I have on my playlist. The first, by Phil Keaggy I had to scour the Internet for. Phil is a world-renowned guitar player but in his early years he had a couple of albums where he sang. I went on a Phil Keaggy buying frenzy a few years back and bought about 5 of his guitar CDs…..what a tremendous talent.

The second is by Wayne Watson whose music I first had on cassette (so was Phil’s actually). His music and messages are timeless though. I hope you enjoy these lyrics and I encourage you to listen to the songs on the Internet. I have listened to them countless times when I feel like I’m grappling for answers and they always give me comfort. When you are homesick for Heaven and wishing you could make everything right.

Under the Grace

Phil Keaggy

I lie awake in the middle of the night again
I try to make some sense of it all rushing in
There’s so much I feel within this heart of mine
I well up inside and my eyes, they overflow
For I know it is grace.

The look of love in the shape of your face I have known
It speaks of this deep sacrifice you have shown
And the wonder of it all is I didn’t deserve this, I couldn’t have planned it so right
And so my eyes, they overflow, let it rain, let it pour, let it go
For I know this, yes, I know, it is grace.

And the hungry in heart seeks for its place and a home, mmm
But it may tear you apart when you see what this grace here has done
Fly, fly all you burdens, go fly away
It’s here I remain, under the grace, the grace.

It seems there’s so little time to make amends here
If not for you, well, then I’m without a friend here.

And the hungry in heart seeks for its place and a home
It may tear you apart when you see what this grace here has done
Fly, fly all you burdens, go fly away
It’s here I remain, under the grace, the grace.

I lie awake in the middle of the night again, again.

Home Free 

Wayne Watson
I’m trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father
If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It’s sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering’s no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come
Oh Lord, not mine, but Thy will be done

Let it be…

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing gonna be Home Free
Home Free, oh its more than a feeling
At the ultimate healing
Gonna be Home Free

 

A Song in the Night

It was one of those tossing and turning nights. I seem to have a lot of those lately. A bleary glance at the clock told me it was 2:30 AM. And faintly I heard something that sounded like a bird singing…..Singing, at that hour! At first I thought it was one of those alarm clocks that sound like birdsong. My Dad had one that went through the whole repertoire of a mockingbird. Incredulously I staggered outside into the cool night.

The stars were bright overhead and it was so quiet, except for the unmistakably loud sound of a real live mockingbird singing its heart out in my neighbor’s lemon tree. It was so early the morning commute hadn’t even started yet. Don’t birds only sing at sunrise? This one’s internal clock was surely off, I thought.

Every morning since, I have heard it. The earliest recorded time was 1:30 AM.

At first I was a bit ticked off. I get up at 4 on my work days and every hour of sleep is precious.

But today, God spoke to me as He often does in that still small way He has. He said:

This little bird is singing at my own direction, and who are you to tell it that its not the right time? When is it wrong to sing of My glory, to sing just for the sheer joy of singing. Don’t I welcome any prayer, any song, day or night? Am I ever too busy to rejoice when one of my creatures is singing, do I ever turn away from your song?

And I don’t know if there is such an expression of a heart that pangs, but my heart did pang as I rolled down the window this morning in the dark just to hear my little friend sing.

A tear threatened, when I thought of all the times I have squashed another’s enthusiasm…..a song they longed to share, because I was too busy wallowing in my own problems to open up my heart, my ears, and truly rejoice with them.

And I thought….how I stifle my own song, how I rob someone of the joy of hearing it. Me, for thinking it’s not worthy of singing. Then, and this one last thought is painful……of voices long stilled, and how I would give anything to hear them again, no matter the day or the hour.

Thank you little bird, and thank you God. For using one of your creatures to instruct me once again…..

Next time I’ll sing

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. Colossians 3:16

As far back as I can remember, the sound of my Mom’s singing is woven into the background of my memories. I have talked about it before somewhere in earlier posts. Can you imagine how it must have been to hear her wonderful Soprano drifing through the windows as I walked up the driveway from school?

Of course, I didn’t appreciate it then, not nearly as much as I do now.

Last time I was back home she started singing in the car and I really wanted to sing along. The words were right on the edge….oh, I knew them, all right.  But something stopped me and I don’t even know what. Who knows, maybe someone was in the car and I was self-conscious. And ever since I got home it has bothered me that I didn’t join in. She was singing an old song…….maybe you know it.

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passin through
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I don’t feel at home in this world anymore….”
She stopped singing and asked me, “Do you know that song?” I said, “Yes, of course.” Memories washed over me when she said that. We used to all get together and sing these songs and many others. Hour were spent, singing and laughing. No one cared how anyone else sounded, but really, I can remember it sounding pretty good. It sounded like joy.
I was ashamed at myself for not singing with her, for not joining in.
For not keeping the memory alive with her.
She said, “Why didn’t you sing?”
Indeed. I wish I had.
I know there will come a day when I won’t be able to sing with her, and it will make me sad beyond words. Sad that I didn’t sing with her every chance I got. But that time is, thankfully, not yet.
It strikes me that I may be the last generation to know those songs. Kids today know many things, they know Miley, and Justin…….
and Beyonce, and JLo….but they don’t know these songs about Heaven.
And it’s wrong to let them die, just because it may not be “cool” to sing them.
So the next time Mom, I will join you.
I will sing.

The blessings of small town living

I knew I had seen her before, I thought….”Could it be?” As they sang, I was convinced. Her posture was just the same, and her expressions. It was one of my high school gym teachers there before me, one member of a female barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols as part of the special music at the Christian Women’s Club event we were attending.

They regularly share their gift of song to local churches and nursing homes. How they must love it when they come….

As they finished their performance, which everyone loved, they went into the foyer and were chatting away quietly amongst themselves when I realized I just had to go talk to her before she left. I walked up and she beamed……I said, “I just wanted to introduce myself, I had you for gym, Tokay High.” Imagine my surprise when she popped right back, “Lori Cook,” she said with a smile. Mind you, it has been 34 years since I wore that ugly orange gym suit. “Wow,” I said flabbergasted, “You are good!”

When we were in High School she was single, but before we graduated she married a coach. It was all very romantic to us girls back then. Ann Ganzer became Ann Braden. I remember one specific day we were all in a circle and she put this funky music on. We were supposed to be learning folk dancing. We were changing all the words, and laughing hysterically. And she scolded us for it.

As I sat back down, my Aunt mentioned that her husband had been in her Graduating class in High School. Such a small world.

There was another lady at our table who I was also trying to place. Then my Mom introduced us….”Ah, Gladys Fever!” We were in choir together at Temple Baptist Church. She was always in a different section, being a tall Soprano. As a short Alto, I was always placed at the end parallel to Marge Jones, the shortest Soprano.

The last time I was back in Lodi, I ran into my Sixth Grade teacher. She knew me too! Before I flatter myself too much I remember that they all know my family and have kept in touch over the years, going to the same grocery stores and running into one another in town.

There is something to this connectedness. I think everyone needs a place where they have been known, and known a long time. It keeps you a bit grounded. Going back is good.

And going forward is very good.

Happy New Year! 2012

The Song around the throne

Don’t you wonder where it comes from? That hymn that you almost forgot? It shows up when you are tired, or anxious, or fearful. Or maybe it’s a verse that comes just when you need it. They float in and out. Sometimes they are like a little whisper deep in your soul.

That’s the Holy Spirit. He can’t keep from singing….and in the quiet places in my soul, I join in. I may be anxious, or scared, or worried. But when I hear His song, my own spirit sings along. The arrow of truth sinks deep. It’s His way of reminding me.

Jesus is all I need. Jesus is all I need. That’s the one I kept hearing this morning. Yes, I know He is. My mind and all my past experiences and logic tell me so and I know it to be true. He is more than enough. It’s my heart that falters, slow to get the message.

I was worried about my Mom yesterday. They had to give her a new medication because her heart was beating too fast. The Doctor mentioned stroke. I realized again that someday, sooner than later, I will have to live without her, and I don’t want to.

Jesus is enough, yes. But I want her here too. I can’t think that she won’t be here as long as I will.

I was so distracted and worried that it took someone with Alzheimer’s in the passenger seat to tell me that I had the green arrow….that was right after I heard the loud honking behind me.

Then I got irritated at them because they were impatient and I honked back.

As my cousin would say, Onward Christian Soldiers.

Sometimes it does feel like a war.

Inside me He is singing and I am doing my best to sing along. There is an endless song around the throne of God that I like to imagine. And it never stops.

That’s the one the Holy Spirit sings….and its the one we will all sing one day, by and by.

Lead me to the cross

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemption’s Hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss
As I was walking and meditating on this song this morning, I thought, this is what it always comes down to at the beginning and end of every day……We come back when we lay down to sleep and we do quiet our souls. We lay down and then we lay it down too. Then, at the beginning of the day we look up, we return, we say…….”It all comes back to You Lord and what You did, every decision we make, we hold up to the cross, in the light of Your grace.”
We are humbled because we know that no matter what happens, that is where it all leads….and ends. Everything in this life will ultimately come down to One Thing. What we did with the cross,
what we did with Jesus. No other decision in this life matters really unless we settle that one first. 
Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to you
Oh Lead me, lead me to the cross 
Brooke Fraser, Hillsong United
Image from google 

When we all get to Heaven

If I could write a book, that would be the title. It’s one of the songs that my family used to sing when we got together. We used to call them “sings.” I guess you could call them jam sessions to use a more modern term. My Uncle played the sax but not very well. Uncle Bill played the banjo very well, having been self taught. One of Mom’s sisters Aunt Mayvis or Esther would be on piano or organ, and  singing Alto, and my Dad would play what we used to call the “gut bucket,” also known as the “washtub bass.” (As barefoot Larry illustrates above) He played his alternating two notes right on time. My Mom would do lead soprano and Aunt Lois and all of us kids would round out vocals, when we weren’t holding our ears in mock horror.

Those choruses roll over in my mind and I love hearing them. They are part of the fabric of my being. Uncle Bill and Aunt Esther have been gone several years now. Aunt Mayvis is sorting through my Uncle’s things now, since he won’t be coming home again. Aunt Lois has been alone for years now, and my cousin was home last weekend helping her out at the house. My Mom and Dad, thankfully are going strong.

But we are all getting closer and closer to “that time.” Even me. It gives me pause.

It also gives me strength to honor all their memories by taking care of myself…..living well….and keeping their stories alive.

I want my niece to know what kind of people she comes from, how strong they were and how proud I am of them all. For their stories are all of our stories. Their lives were marked with sacrifice and hardship and they never gave up. They were thinking of the future, theirs and ours.  

So every now and again I resurrect the stories here…..to honor them.

I find myself wishing I could have been there when my Aunt and Uncle and two friends all got perms when they came to California in the late 1930’s in their old Ford piled with everything they could put on top. The relatives thoughtfully had a place ready for them to live……in the chicken coop. But they didn’t know that then.

Or seen my Grandmother and Grandfather rescue the baby chicks that didn’t drown in the rainstorm, bringing them in by the wood stove to dry.

I think I can almost see them looking back as they left their farm behind in North Dakota to move to California…. I know they shed many tears for the little girl they left behind, her small 2 year old body marked with a lamb on the stone……and all their animal friends, each one of whom were named. They were their working partners through several harsh winters.

And I wish I could have seen my Mom win my Dad back after they had a fight in high school, she in her black dress and gold lame shoes, singing a love song on stage at the school talent show. She and my Dad reconciled that night.

I remember them all today. Their lives encourage me to take care of myself and do my best to make them proud, and to cherish every year God gives me, and to never ever give up.

Always keeping their stories living, breathing, with me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1