The Words Of My Mouth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMusical preference is subjective, and that truth is seen in religious as well as secular settings.  In a majority of churches you’ll find 2 basic styles of music: hymns, and praise and worship songs.  Whichever style of music you find yourself supporting, or even if you’re appreciative of both, I think it’s fair to say that we could all benefit from a ‘spring cleaning’ of sorts, in regards to the way we approach our time of musical worship.

If you sing something enough times, you’ll memorize it.  While memorization is an awesome skill, I have caught myself on many occasions robotically singing both categories of songs during a church service without engaging my mind and my spirit in the words that I’m singing, and in the message that’s being conveyed.  One could point the finger at ADHD, and I won’t deny that my brain is a bit ‘lacking in focus’ at times, but each Christian  has a responsibility when we walk in the door of the church to make an effort to focus on worship.  If we don’t, then we have to ask ourselves why we’re even there.  The deeper, more invisible culprit to my nomadic mind is our enemy the devil.  He WANTS you and I to be distracted during church.  What a way to thumb his nose at God, eh?  Almost anything can be a distraction during church, from planning the day ahead, to the personal devices that you bring to church, to children (yours or others).

One way that we can attempt to overcome this distraction is to make more of a connection with the songs that we sing.  Hymns are typically more beloved by the older generation because they grew up singing them.  A hymn is definitely not the musical style of today, but many of them have awesome words and melodies.  Consider the song “Only In Thee.”  It has a nice tune and harmony, but a few of the words and some of the poetic imagery are pretty unfamiliar for today:  words like thee, thy, dwelleth, betide, cometh, and ‘pilgrim bark aright’.  Don’t be tempted to bypass the absorption of these songs into your mind!  Upon closer inspection (and perhaps with the help of a dictionary), we can see the powerful message of this song.  You can endure the troubles and temptations of this life by the peace and protection of Jesus.  Many of us could attest to the fact that sometimes life in this world is dark (‘Only in thee when days are drear, when neither sun nor stars appear…’).  Jesus is portrayed as shining ‘like a beacon in the night’, and the last verse is a beautiful statement of his love for us: ‘Only in thee dear savior slain, losing thy life, my own to gain’.  A modern way to paraphrase this is: Only you, Jesus, would lose your life, to save mine.  What an awesome thought to hold onto, if you will delve into the words and their meaning!

A praise and worship song I love is “Sanctuary.”  A short chorus with only one main thought, but what a vital piece of our Christian walk and worship:  ‘Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary: pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you’.  Exodus says (God’s words) “Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.”  What an awesome thought, that God wants to spend time with us.

I invite you to take the opportunity to explore songs you’re unfamiliar with, and also to be focused and aware in your worship.

Rebecca Parr is married to  Kevin and they have  3  children.

Little Children

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe privilege of being a parent is one-of-a-kind.  It’s a job that is common, but also incredibly special and important.  Somebody once said that a baby is a deceptive bundle of joy.  Children are born into this world a very helpless creature, and yet, for all their fragility they can nevertheless project a wail that will surely reach the neighbor’s house.  They cannot dress themselves when they are young, but they have the unmistakable ‘talent’ of voicing their opinions on many different matters. There is NOTHING like the smiles and giggles of a baby, and hugs from your toddler.  There is also nothing like the consternation when that sweet baby of yours suddenly decides that his or her way is better.

I can see a parallel of this relationship in the Bible between God and the people of Israel.  At times they are very needy, and are crying out to him.  Other times, they are defiant and rebellious.  All the while he tries to tell them that he knows what’s best for him.  Where are God’s people today in this regard?  I don’t at all disregard people’s physical needs, but how often does our heart break for someone’s spiritual need?  How often do we get distracted by everyday living, and things of the world when perhaps God has a role for us to play that affects the spiritual realm?  I want to be a better ‘child’ to my King of Kings, and to know how to interpret his plans for me.

Jesus said if anyone causes a child to stumble, it would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.  He also said the kingdom of Heaven belongs to people with the spirit and trust of a child (my interpretation), and he desired their company.  Think of the characteristics of children: wide-eyed innocence, trust, a zest for living, and the ability to be inspired by the awesome…how can we as adults regain some of these characteristics?

I love my children a lot and I do think that they are one of my greatest blessings.  Here are some of my journal entries of funny things they have said or done.  Enjoy!

Yesterday I was explaining to the kids that they could not have everything they wanted.  I said, “I want a real elephant, but do you think we could have a real elephant here?”  Jackson’s eyes got big and he said soberly, “You would need a BIG shovel!”  I laughed and he got mad.

Today my 4yr old said ‘Mommy, you don’t look like anything with your ponytail.’ I paused and asked ‘Is that a good thing or a bad thing?’ She paused and said uncertainly ‘I don’t know.’

My 2yr old doesn’t get the concept of staying in bed.  Night after night, she comes out to the living room, looking cute and whispering to us about being scared of the dark, or just whatever.  Two nights ago, she came out with a Tinkerbell hat on her head, a backpack on, and carrying a baby and her sippy cup with water.  Looked like she was going on a hike.  Last night, she appeared with stickers on her face.  It’s impossible not to laugh at her, but I think I’ll lose my mind.

Food For Thought

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Food for thought”…the general title of this BlogSpot came to be, if I’m being honest, without a lot of conscious direction. However, as I write this identically titled blog, I realize that my subconscious was feverishly at work indicating 2 things.  First, I love food.  Second, food is at the basis of our existence, although it can come to mean so much more than simple nourishment of the body.

From the beginning, we see that even Eden in its perfection still had rules, and they revolved around food.  In reality I suppose, the seeming perfection of the Garden was marred by just one tree that was haunted by a wily serpent.  God even then was fighting a desperate battle for us, the victory hinging on a decision about what to eat.  In the end our predecessors paid the ultimate price for their decision.

 

In Eden, a decision made about food led to the end of that unique fellowship with God.  It is an important reminder that certain decisions we make today can separate us from God, which can include what we put into our bodies (including food), and things that we may see, hear or do.  The great thing is that today, food more often than not promotes fellowship.   Whether its family or church dinners, school lunches or lunch dates with friends, it feels good to eat with those you care about.  The desire to belong, to be included, and to be wanted or needed are perhaps some of the most universal feelings that we experience.

 

The subject of food comes up several other places in scripture, and it’s not just about how they fed themselves.  The Israelites learned faith, trust and obedience to God as he provided manna and quail in the desert.  Jesus referred to himself as that same bread in John 6: “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and we who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  Jesus, with his disciples, ate the Last Supper.  An intimate meal with his closest friends he had on earth, and it had to have heartbroken him to tell them that there was a traitor among them.

 

Recently it’s been a real blessing for my family and I to be able to serve a meal to the youth group on Wed. nights.  I’ll admit, my eagerness to serve wasn’t entirely unselfish.  In my home and I daresay in many homes across the country, there goes up a general grumble from my children at supper if the menu doesn’t include pizza, spaghetti, or chili.  It’s a big downer.  Cherry Street’s youth group is a bunch that usually are easily satisfied.  They are grateful, and they tell me so.  I’m thankful for them and for the friends they are bringing.  As you gather to share food with your family and friends this month, be active in your gratitude toward God for what He’s given you.  And always be on the lookout for what He might be teaching you, and for ways you can give back to Him.

 

 

 

Heartaches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you been there?  Perhaps a loved one has passed on.  Perhaps you’re suffering because you’ve been a victim in the past.  Perhaps you’re consumed by sadness, overwhelmed by a seemingly insurmountable task, or perhaps you just don’t know what your next step in life will be.

For me, a time of heartache came because of a rift in a relationship.  Too many times our words precede rational thought and in the end, cause wounds that cannot be forgotten.  James chapter 3 gives an analogy of the power our tongues can have, and admonishes us to take care that they be used for good.  James 3:4-5: “Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

During this time in my life, I came across Psalm 34.  For much of my life the Bible had been merely words on paper; good words, I would grant you, but when I read these words they jumped off the pages and became balm for my heart: “This poor man called and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:6,18).  Those words came alive for me, both surprising and comforting me.  God reached through the stitches of time in those ancient words to nurse my hurting soul.  I began to read those verses over and over and soon discovered that the entire chapter was instructive, calming and full of praise for God and his mighty ways, both powerful and gentle.

The comfort these verses gave me reminds me of the conviction of Paul as he wrote in Romans 8:35-39:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble, or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”  May these words of hope bind themselves to your heart, and may you seek mercy and triumph, all to the praise of our Almighty God

-Rebecca Parr, January 19, 2013