…to sing thy grace.

Welcome! This is a place for hearts and for grace. A place for life and story, laughter and tears, the serious and the silly. I hope you see my heart in all that I write, and that ultimately you see the Father's heart for you as we learn together to tune our hearts to sing his grace.

Not so much a “Do-Over” as a “Do-The-Next-Thing” Year

 

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We all just stepped into a new year.

It’s January 1st…the great big “Do-Over Day.” Everyone is sharing New Year resolutions, goals, and plans.

Yet, this year for some reason, all the New Year’s sentiments and resolutions have seemed so predictable and borderline obnoxious to me. Anyone else feel that way? Maybe I feel a little jaded. Maybe some of my youthful optimism is fading. :) Maybe I see all too clearly in my own life where I’ve set out to make changes only to fail and give up.

Well, I don’t want to seem pessimistic or start this year with a bad attitude. Maybe I’m still feeling the effects of a 16 hour car ride back from Boston. Maybe with a few hours sleep I’ll feel completely different. But right now, looking into 2015 I don’t really want to shoot for some lofty goal or ambition. I don’t want to work hard to change myself to meet some high standard or some idyllic achievement based on a comparing myself to someone else. Isn’t that the temptation?

No, this year I just want to be me.

The best me.

The healthiest me.

The me that pursues God with an undivided heart.

I want to remember that I am already a new me. My life has been redeemed, the old self has gone…the new self, by grace alone, is in me. Yes, there is still work to be done, but my hope is not in anything I can accomplish.

Really, I just don’t want to be duped by the idea that somehow there is a completely different me who is better. No, I want to be plain old me, but as I face choices all day long to choose what is best.

So how do I choose? I’m not always very good at choosing…I waste gobs of time, I lack discipline, I miss so many divine appointments. Where do I start?

Here is where.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

I think of this passage as a grid to run all things through…like a net, weeding out all the dross.

Some years we need to declare a complete “Do-Over” I get it…I’ve been there. This year for me however, I want to focus on the small choices. The small things can add up can’t they?

So there. Those are my New Year’s sentiments. :)

Happy New Year to you! How are you feeling? Does this year need a “Do-Over” or a “Do-The-Next-Thing” approach? What are your New Year’s sentiments? :)

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Christmas Songs to Tune Our Hearts :: O Holy Night #flashmob

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I saw this video when it went viral on social media last December. I loved it. I hope you love it too…

Reasons I love this video:

1. Well of course…It’s Boston! The town I claim as my own…having grown up in that area. :)

2. It’s at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston…I LOVED visiting this place growing up.

3. I love a good flash mob.

4. Cello. Must I say anything else? Beautiful!

5. I just love the words to this Christmas song…they are breathtaking. I’ll post them below.

6. Finally I love how the music transforms a busy, everyday cafeteria setting to worship. This group pointed to Jesus…and maybe they didn’t even intend to.

Enjoy.

THE WEARY WORLD REJOICES!!!

I would have loved to be there…

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

 

Singing His Grace,
Jess

Christmas Songs to Tune Our Hearts :: Come As You Are

This song. This lyric.

“Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.”

Oh how I want to believe that this Christmas! I’m praying that my soul would believe that for those who are hurting today.

Sad news reached us this week of a family facing so much hurt right now.

Heartbreaking news is everywhere.

Yet, good news came glimmering though. Last night we heard a testimony of God’s redemptive grace in the life of a young man bringing change, forgiveness, and healing to his family. Only God can do such things!

I know you may be reading this…overcome with sorrow. Perhaps your own family is in shambles. Perhaps you see a dear friend aching with sorrow. Perhaps your heart has been as heavy as mine as you weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.

Dear friends, let us put our hope in the return of Jesus. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas let us lift our eyes to the hills…Jesus came for us then and he will come back to make all things right…earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.

Not a “Christmas” song…but maybe it is….

You can come to Christmas as you are…

Happy or hurting, wrecked or rejoicing…come as you are.

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Singing His Grace,

Jess

Christmas Songs to Tune Our Hearts :: #2 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

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There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-3a ESV)

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Christmas Songs to Tune Our Hearts :: #1 Light Of The World

 

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Thoughts swirling.

So much to say.

All the feelings.

Christmas is coming. So not “ready.” Whatever that means. Anyone else?

Feeling the drought in my soul.

I know that I am still part of a word that is waiting.

Longing.

Hoping.

But this song. Have you heard it? It’s on repeat here today.

“For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wander
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel”

Take a listen:

(This is the first in a series of posts bringing you songs to help tune our hearts this Christmas. Be sure to subscribe, like, share or follow if you want to listen along with me.)

Singing His Grace,

Jess

The Front Row

 

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I remember the first time one of our children performed on a stage.

I remember just beaming. After all, that little person up there was mine! I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear with pride. Not because my child knew the motions the best or sang the loudest…simply because that child was MINE!

And all the emotions started filling my heart about how that little one even got to be here on the earth…how they learned to walk and talk and now the were up there singing!!!!

 

Similarly…

One of the best parts of parenting is getting a front row seat to what God is doing in the lives of our kids (click to tweet).

The front row can have its negatives…we get a very clear picture of our kid’s mess-ups, tantrums, and sinful nature….

Sometimes we cover our eyes and oh the worry. But our God is faithful. He hears our prayers.

He whispers, don’t worry…this is the part where it gets really good.

 

And then, the front row is the best seat in the house and we find ourselves grinning from ear to silly ear.

Because what a joy it is to see them learn and grow, especially when we see their hearts change and soften to the Gospel.

 

So, dear parent, if you feel like you are covering your eyes…hoping, praying…hang on! But remember too…your kids get a front row seat to what God is doing in YOUR life. So let them see the messes, but let them see Jesus more.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

On Cynicism and Compassion-Driven Prayers

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When we ache for others, sometimes we find ourselves lost and angry and confused…at least I do…

And I can find myself so mad, just so broken-hearted and honestly it makes me want to shut my eyes and ears and close my heart to this messy world.

But the fact of the matter is, God put His heart in me.

He tore out my heart of flesh and gave me his own spirit, his own love, his own compassion…

And even as I read headlines and ache for hurting people, hurting communities, hurting moms and dads and confused and frightened children…I won’t shut it out. I won’t ignore or “move on” I will do as Jesus did…I will look with compassion and I will pray to my Father.

A wise mentor once gently pointed me to prayer in this kind of heartache…she said “Jess, just like when we fast and we let the pain of hunger remind us to pray we take the heartache we feel for others and we let it remind us to pray.”  So today I will pray.

And hang with me here… I don’t have time today to write my thoughts out well so forgive me…but sometimes important things just need to be said.

 

We have some choices to make. When we see our broken world, we can become cynical, self-righteous, and lose hope.

Or…we can shut our eyes and ears and ignore.

But there is a third way…we can also pray. 

But may they be prayers that connect our hears and our souls with our eyes and ears….may what we see and hear drive us to align our hearts with God’s heart through prayer.

And I worry because there are a lot of cynics out there. The book “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller says, “Many of us believe in the Christian hope of ultimate redemption, but we breathe the cynical spirit of our age and miss the heart of God.”

You know what? When we know the character of God and we see his response to generation after generation of sinful hurting people, Miller reminds us that “God is not cynical in the face of evil. He loves.”

So pray today. Pray tomorrow. Let prayer change you. Let your heart be soft. Don’t fear the hurt, anger and compassion…let it in…because if your heart changes and something deep in you begins to understand God’s heart, we will begin to see glimpses of our future hope. We will become a people who will point to the only deeper reality that can fix, heal, and redeem.

Paul Miller also point his readers to certain kinds of prayer that guard us against cynicism…prayers of repentance and prayers of thanksgiving.

He says, “Cynicism looks reality in the face, calls it phony, and prides itself on its insight as it pulls back. Thanksgiving looks reality in the face and rejoices at God’s care. It replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one.”

Do I need to repent? (Obviously the answer is always yes.)
Do you need to repent?
Is there a prejudice and callousness and a judgmental and critical spirit…or perhaps just a selfishness, an apathy…a self-focus in our lives that we MUST confess? You know a critical spirit can be sneaky…you don’t have to be a grumpy old curmudgeon to have a critical spirit. A critical spirit often hides behind a smile, it lurks behind good deeds, it masquerades as kindness. Be so careful not to let a critical spirit take root.

Oh, there is so much to say here…

But but let me simply end with this thought and quote from Miller’s book:

“Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness. You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift. Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. That would be like returning to naive optimism. Thanking God restores the natural order of our dependence on God. It enables us to see life as it really is.”

So this week, as our nation turns to a collective gathering of giving thanks…may we truly pray with this spirit of thankfulness…not just for our couch and football game and our turkey and whatever it is…

Let us pray with thanksgiving that admits our dependence on God. Let’s pray with thanksgiving and yield our hearts to tender compassion and true repentance…and when that spirit leads us to act in our own circle of influence in our own neighborhoods…then we act with the very power of God.

And I’m not sure if any of this is a complete thought, but thank you for grace…and to be honest…the sun is shining warm and bright today in my part of the world–but I will choose to remember that in other parts of this world there are very dark places. I urge you to pray for those overcome with or battling the dark.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

 

 

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