I. I simply love the Chris Tomlin arrangement of Amazing Grace. I weep most every time I hear it; I've heard it twice in three days now... If you aren't familiar with it, know that it is faithful to the original in lyrics (retained completely with bridge/chorus added) and in tune style (different, but still hymn-like). Yet it brings the music to me in a way that is fresh and worshipful, and I love to sing it back to my Savior, who has truly allotted me amazing grace. You may enjoy it here:
II. I don't remember observing the week prior to Easter in any special way when I was growing up, but I have found it helpful as an adult to really try to prepare my heart during this week.
I hate all the trappings of Easter: pastel colors and white shoes and bunny rabbits, etc. But I love pausing to remember how great my sin is, how love and grace were greater still, and how God's power (the power at work in me according to Ephesians!) raised Jesus from the dead, defeating sin and death and raising me to new life with Him! I love this story and I need to pause and remember.
Last year, I observed a (non-food) fast for Lent, something I had never done before. I've begun seeking out Maundy Thursday/Good Friday/preparatory services in the week prior to Easter. I pause especially to consider the condition of my heart and repent of any found sin. I do all this, so that on Easter morning, when we celebrate Him who is the first-born from the dead, I can CELEBRATE! It is the best party ever!
III. Sunday morning in worship I received a rebuke from the Father, and as such things usually are, it was painful.
Just before that, I had taught--or more accurately, tried to teach--my middle school class, and it was a disaster. In an atypical fashion, but for the second week in a row, the guys would not stop cutting up. There were, I believe, two problems:
1.) Spiritual opposition. As at Christmas, I am approaching the time when, more directly and poignantly than at most other times, I dig deep into the Word to layout the gospel in a crystal-clear fashion and offer a chance for a response. And, as at Christmas, I find my efforts thwarted by disruptions. There are clearly students in my class who have not taken Christ as their personal Savior, and my heart is so burdened for them. Sunday, one of my neighbors was visiting, and I am certain that he has never accepted Christ.
2.) This is where the rebuke comes in: I was not as prepared as I should have been. Since the class cut up the week before, I still had most of last week's lesson to teach. So (I'm embarrassed to even type this...), rather than re-preparing--as I should have--I simply reviewed it briefly on Saturday night. I was not fully prepared, and I didn't have a plan in place that would fully engage my students...and when I entered the worship service troubled by the outcome, God's Spirit made it clear that I was at least partly to blame for the meltdown.
It hurt, and it grieved me, particularly as I have almost never had a chance to share Christ with the neighbor who visited, and I didn't get a chance on Sunday either. And even worse, I received a rather harsh (but earned) rebuke a couple of years ago on this topic, when God pulled me out of teaching for a season to remind me that I can't just 'wing it' when teaching God's Word. I may know a lot of it, but if I don't humbly prepare my lesson, I won't know what God wants these listeners to learn on that day. And so, yet again, I must fight my busyness and lazy nature, and do the work God has called me to so that I might not stand in the way of His Word.
IV. I find that I'm a little embarrassed to have shared with you number III. It really is a character flaw that I tend to be a lazy preparer. I guess the good part is, God is making clear that He won't let me remain so. And I'm glad. I've already done so much better than I did several years ago, and though I slipped up last week, God's Spirit corrected me quickly so that I can't slide back into that pattern. And I'm so grateful, as nothing in this world makes me happier than helping someone understand God's truth.
V. Last night in a phone conversation, God resolved an issue that has been weighing heavily on my mind... and it is so good, and I am at such peace about it--and that is clearly a God thing! :-)
VI. A fellow blogger recently commented that if there is anything good in her, it's Jesus, 'cause when 'she' pops out, it's ugly (my paraphrase). I feel exactly the same way. If I let me start peeking out, it is just not pretty. The words of grace I long to speak come out as assault & battery and the gentleness I want to portray becomes a club unleashed. It doesn't take much of 'me' to corrupt my tongue; a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough, no?
VII. I LOVE being an aunt and I so miss being near my niece and nephews! But I am excited to say that I will have TWO more come this fall!! BOTH married sisters are pregnant! YEA GOD! Stories I won't recount here, but suffice it to say, these really are 'God stories.' I am SMILING!
VIII. This is already too long and I'm starting to get bored with myself, so let's see if I can wrap this up quickly...
IX. I should buy stock in the Purell company so I could get at least some of my investment returned to me! Great stuff, hand sanitizer.
X. I would really like to travel somewhere this year. I don't know where, and I have no idea how I would afford it, but it is something I would really like to do. Even better would be to travel internationally again; I so love that! :-)
Finis! Well, if I bored myself, then I probably bored you too, though you certainly had the freedom to quit before now...I'm stuck with me! ;-D Perhaps God will yet 'restore the minutes J's blog has eaten' (rough reference to the book of Joel). Perhaps next time I will have some scintillating news...but don't get your hopes up. ;-)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. --Colossians 1:15-20