Category: Media

Year of Joy and 40 Days

lentCandle

I sat in the Ash Wednesday service this morning and every single word was a gift from God to my heart.

I thought of Peter weeping bitterly over his betrayal.  I thought of how Jesus knew all about the mess that was Peter.  How He prayed for him.  How He welcomed him on the beach and said, “Come and have breakfast.

I kept thinking about how Jesus knows me.

How He knows the mess that is me.

How He welcomes me.

And how He calls me to die. 

To die to my false self. My self-centered self.

(So that I can live to my true-self-in-Christ.)

How He calls me to feed His sheep. To live love.

When I die to self then I live to Love.

When I die to self then I live to Joy.

Then I live to JOY!

I wrote the post below several years ago. It speaks a sweet reminder to me today.

40 days to wander, 40 days to die to self
40 days to grow stronger as faith breaks open the gates of hell.
The Jubilee is over, but grace is far from gone
In the hearts of the faithful, broken on the wheels of love.

Chorus:

In the desert of temptation, lies the storm of true conversion,
where springs of living water drown and refresh you
And as the Jordan pours out change,
your true self is all that remains,
where springs of living water bind and break you.

40 days to remember the Paschal sacrifice
40 days to discover as passion calls us to new life
The Jubilee is over but mercy is far from gone
In the arms of the Father as the wayward child comes home.

– Matt Maher –

Several images in this video caught my attention and surprised me. I was captured by the illustrations of Jesus at play, chasing birds, finding joy.

Odd as it may be, I never once thought of Jesus experiencing joy during his 40 days in the wilderness. And yet, something about these simple images stirred my soul.

Why would I think joy was absent when God was present? And I thought of all of the times, when in the midst of hardship and struggle, I have found such joy in surrendered intimacy with my Lord.

In the midst of 40 days of dying to self, in the midst of this season of Lent, there is great joy to be found as death brings forth resurrection. Not just Easter morning resurrection, but present resurrection, living wide awake to God in the midst of the wilderness.

Joy.

Now.

“Where springs of living water bind and break you.”

A Thousand Things

I have the immense privilege of hearing people’s stories as a part of my job.  I recently got to travel halfway around the world and listen to the stories of my sisters who live in that hemisphere so far away from where I rise up and lay my head down here in Wales.  And one of the great blessings of stepping into a story from outside the narrative is that you often get to see patterns in the threads that are hidden to those who step in and through them every day.

When a friend shared this song that had spoken to her, I found myself playing it on a loop as I’ve prayed over the words.  “A thousand things are happening in this one thing.”

The threads of the story that God is weaving sometimes seem like a mess of contrasting colors all tangled up in a pool of knots on the floor.  And yet, in that beautiful mess a story is being woven.

“So honey, wrap yourself in promise while you wait the morning light.  A thousand things are happening tonight.”

Christmas Favorites

Today in church the pastor asked about our favorite Christmas songs.  There are so many wonderful ones, but I narrowed it down to two favorites.  One modern and one classic.

Winter Snow – Audrey Assad and Chris Tomlin

Something about this song just makes me want to exhale deep.  It slows and settles my soul.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus sung by David Potter

I love this hymn. The words encapsulate the message of Advent, the longing of our hearts.  This version has also added a beautiful chorus that resonates as we even now long for the advent of our Victorious One.

 What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Grace Upon Grace

We cannot grab and hold.

Don’t resent the moments simply because they cannot be frozen.  Taste them.  Savor them.  Give thanks for daily bread.  Manna doesn’t keep overnight.  More will come in the morning.

Our futile struggle in time is courtesy of God’s excessive giving.  Sunset after sunset make it hard to remember and hold just one.  Smell after smell.  Laugh after laugh.  A mind still thinking, a heart still beating.

These quotes from N.D. Wilson’s Death by Living encapsulate so much of my journey over this past year.  So many relationships.  So many experiences.  So many gifts, slipping through my fingers like sand.

In fact, a tagline for the story of this interval of transition could easily be: Life is meant to be spent, not clutched tight or held fast.

While preparing to leave the US for Wales I found myself listening to Audrey Assad’s Good to Me on a continuous loop.  I was filled with longing to have my eyes fixed on the faithful promises of God and the grace upon grace that He continually pours out on my life in the midst of the struggles and the sorrows of saying goodbye one more time.  As this became the prayer that I breathed in and out, I determined that the foxes in the vineyard would not steal my joy.

And isn’t it interesting that when you open your hands and spread your fingers wide, so that the constant stream of grace pours through, then the hardships and trials and losses cannot cling to you because they are caught up and swept forward in the ever moving stream of grace.  The loss that you grieve becomes the very instrument that awakens your heart to the gifts that you have been given.

Life moves on.

Grace never ends.

Time is spent and His mercies are new every morning.

Green Pastures

You might have seen this video if you attend Idlewild on Wednesday nights or if you follow me on Facebook, but I still feel like it is worth revisiting.  Sometimes just a hint of historical context can shine a huge light on something of immense spiritual significance.  I find deep comfort in the truth of this lesson.

Green Pastures.

God does not plunk us down in belly deep alfalfa.

He does lead us mouthful by mouthful.

We don’t get a pasture of life long provision, but we join Him on a journey through the wilderness.

Staying close to the Shepherd moment by moment is the only way to live.

40 Days

40 days to wander, 40 days to die to self
40 days to grow stronger as faith breaks open the gates of hell.
The Jubilee is over, but grace is far from gone
In the hearts of the faithful, broken on the wheels of love.

Chorus:

In the desert of temptation, lies the storm of true conversion,
where springs of living water drown and refresh you
And as the Jordan pours out change,
your true self is all that remains,
where springs of living water bind and break you.

40 days to remember the Paschal sacrifice
40 days to discover as passion calls us to new life
The Jubilee is over but mercy is far from gone
In the arms of the Father as the wayward child comes home.

– Matt Maher –

Several images in this video caught my attention and surprised me. I was captured by the illustrations of Jesus at play, chasing birds, finding joy.   Odd as it may be, I never once thought of Jesus experiencing joy during his 40 days in the wilderness.  And yet, something about these simple images stirred my soul.  Why would I think joy was absent when God was present?  And I thought of all of the times, when in the midst of hardship and struggle, I have found such joy in surrendered intimacy with my Lord.

In the middle of 40 days of dying to self, in the middle of this season of Lent, there is great joy to be found as death brings forth resurrection.  Not just Easter morning resurrection, but present resurrection, living wide awake to God in the middle of the wilderness.

Joy.

Now.

“Where springs of living water bind and break you.”

Ten Thousand Reasons for My Heart to Find

I found myself feeling overwhelmed by feelings this morning.   My life is overrun with a million small details and important decisions.  I was gone 12 days, back 13 and I’m leaving tomorrow for another 12.  There is so much to be done and the pressure of it has been weighing heavy.

And I knew I needed to:

Stop – For this hurried spirit accomplishes nothing

Reflect – For God’s presence is with me

Pray – For He longs for me to abide in Him in the middle of the pressures of the day

Give Thanks – For He has provided for all that I need and so much more

And I find that just minutes focusing on His presence and resting in His love is like a bottomless well of purest water to my thirsty soul.

And somehow it all looks different now…for there truly are blessings for my soul, even today, ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

CD Review: A Place to Belong by Lisa Troyer

CD Description:

Every woman needs acceptance, love and a place to belong. That’s the underlying theme of the new music CD, A Place to Belong (Lifeway Worship), from singer/songwriter Lisa Troyer, president of Circle of Friends Ministries. Refreshingly authentic and dynamic, the companion worship CD to Troyer’s recently released book, A Place to Belong: Out of Our Comfort Zone and into God’s Adventure (Barbour Publishing), tenderly draws women into a place of true freedom and belonging in the very heart of God.

In her book,Troyer shares her own journey to acceptance as well as the story of a group of dynamic “women helping women” who call themselves the Circle of Friends. Troyer encourages readers to form their own circle of friends, a safe place of truth and love where women can develop lasting relationships and discover together the purposes of God for their lives.

Obviously noticeable in both the book and CD is Troyer’s passion to lead others into the bottomless love of God. This fierce desire compelled her to plunge deeply into the heart of the issues all women face, but most keep to themselves. With tendencies toward depression, anxiety attacks and an eating disorder, Troyer knows firsthand the bondage of secrecy and shame. “Living with a secret,” Troyer admits, “doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t change your heart. As well hidden as your secret is, that is how deeply lonely you will be. I’ve been there. I know it’s true.”

The newly released companion CD reinforces her book’s admonition that there is complete freedom and acceptance to be found in the Father. “This CD was birthed out of the knowledge that music is so often used by God to solidify a written and/or spoken message,” says Troyer. “Dawn Yoder and I have been blessed by the friendship and songwriting partnership God’s given us, and songs like ‘Let Us Bow Down,’ ‘Lifting My Praise Up’ and ‘I Found Grace’ (Circle of Friends theme song) are reflective of how, by finding a place to belong, we are inspired to share encouragement, while keeping our focusing on worshipping in ‘Spirit and in truth.’”

The new Circle of Friends CD is available online at http://lifewayworship.com and iTunes. It can also be purchased through your local Christian retailer.

Bio & Author Website:

Radio personality, recording artist, speaker and author Lisa Troyer finds herself heart-deep in ministries that are changing lives forever. Her incredibly successful Circle of Friends women’s ministry, formed over a decade ago, is growing in all directions. With ministry and songwriting partner Dawn Yoder, Lisa and her Circle of Friends offer women’s conferences, leadership training, counseling services, worship music, life skills classes and marriage/family resources. No matter the outlet or the venue, Lisa uses her gift of encouragement, her influence and her resources to open doors for women everywhere to discover their significance and belonging through Christ.

My Thoughts: (I received a free download of this CD in exchange for my honest opinion)

I love the idea behind this CD – finding a place to belong in community in the body of Christ, relating with each other in the model of Trinitarian love, this is a message worth singing about.  The music itself is mellow and quiet.  Some might find it soothing.  There is nothing particularly standout or artistic about the music itself – it is standard, mainstream, christian praise music, yet, the words are worshipful.  I was particularly drawn to the lyrics of the song I Found Grace with it’s focus on journeying in community.  It’s honestly not my style of music, but I can think of a number of people who would love it.  (Music is harder to review than books as it is much more subjective to personal style).  You can check out more about the CD (and the book) and see for yourself if it’s your style of music on these websites:

~ www.findaplacetobelong.com<http://www.findaplacetobelong.com> ~

~ (Follow page links to download songs for free) ~

~ www.lisatroyer.com<http://www.lisatroyer.com> ~

~ www.ourcircleoffriends.org<http://www.ourcircleoffriends.org> ~

Home for our Hearts

I was praying with someone this evening and these words from their prayer are still echoing in my soul. “You are our home…a home for our hearts.”

Home

That word evokes so many thoughts, so many emotions.

Home

Where is that elusive place?

I’ve always loved the way the Hungarian language refers to home.  Itthon – the word that I use when I am currently, geographically at home.  Otthon – the word that I use when I refer to home, but I am not currently, geographically there.  These phrases have meant a lot to me as a missionary for when I’m in the States I’m “home – Itthon” with my family but Hungary is the “Otthon – home” that I am away from.  And when I am in my apartment in Hungary it is reversed.

But what do I do when all my geographical definitions of home fall short?  How do I think of home when no place on earth can hang on to that title?

I’m still looking for the city.  I’m still on a journey toward the Promised Land and I’m not home yet, not by a long shot.

But my soul has already taken this journey.  My soul has found its home.

How glorious is your dwelling place
O Loving Creator of the Universe!
My soul longs, yes, aches for the abode of the Beloved;
All that is within me sings for joy
to the living Heart of Love!
Even as the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nesting place,
where its young are raised within Your majestic creation,
You invite us to dwell within Your heart.

(Psalms from Praying, Nan C. Merrill)

A home for my heart is a home found in the circle of the Trinity. 
Home…that resting place for my soul is found in the very heart of God.
Home is found in the midst of the Triune embrace.
And that is a truer home than any geographical location can ever be.

So I ponder home and recall this line of a favorite song…

”I’m home anywhere if you are where I am.”