Thursday, November 30, 2017

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Luke 1:30

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Luke 2: 10-12

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

When Ben, my boss, asked me what my favorite Christmas Carol was.  I thought for a moment and had to decide between a great tune or words.  I chose words.  But, then I had to decide between "Joy the World" or "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." I finally chose "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."  However, as I went to look for it in our current Methodist hymnal, I was baffled.  It wasn't there.  I was standing next to his vast collection of hymnals from multiple denominations and eras, so I began pulling out different hymnals to search for a copy.  Not a one had that carol in their hymnal!

When was this carol pulled from hymnals?  Was it ever in a hymnal?  Why is it missing?     Was it due to the political correctness?  Couldn't be, because that didn't bother people in centuries before.  Was it the multiple references to Satan?  I doubt that as well.  It was a mystery I had to solve.  Unfortunately, all I found was a graph of years the hymn was included in hymnals.  It was written in the 15ht century by an unknown composer and first published in 1933.  However, it turned into a great hymn study. No other carol, in  my opinion, tells the story better with so many high points of the birth of Christ.

So, let's look at the first line.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, 
remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.

I'm not a feminist, so I view "gentlemen" as all people.  Can we substitute any other word and make it fit the tune?  I dare say not.  Folk and friends do not find the syllabic requirements.  Maybe people, but I still don't like it.  

"Christ born on Christmas day."  Well, that probably didn't really happen either.  Verse 4 talks about the shepherds feeding their flocks in tempest, storm and wind.  We have to remember these carols were written in medieval times and there are poetic liberties.

But what this carol does do is put Luke's words into poetic form.  The famous story of the shepherds on the hillside and of the angel coming and saying to the shepherds, "Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy!"  This theme is reiterated in the final phrase, "O tidings of  comfort and joy," which is why it is my favorite carol.

The main text of the carol is the title as seen in verse 10--"Do not be afraid."  It's about being strong in the Lord and not being fearful.

Words over the years tend to change meaning and this is the case here.  The original word "merry" means "happy" today.  But the original word "merry" means strong--"God rest you strong, gentlemen."  Just think about Robin Hood's band of merry men.  They might very well been happy, but most definitely, they were strong.

Next, the verb "rest" is to be studied.  The original word "rest" means "to make."

God make you strong, gentlemen.

Wait!  Notice the comma before gentlemen?  Doesn't that change the entire meaning?  The comma is essential.  God make you strong, COMMA, gentlemen.  We are not describing the gentlemen.  It is a command to them.

With this new translation and the comma we can now see how the text is describing the angels proclamation from Luke 2.

God makes us strong because the birth of Jesus is the good news.  Notice in verse 1 and verse 3 the reference to Satan--"to save us all from Satan's power" and "to fee all those who trust in Him from Satan's power and might."  This is the good news that makes us strong in the Lord!

We can also be strong in the Lord because this good news is for all people.  Not just the Jews, but people all across the entire world.

Lastly, we can be strong in the Lord because this good news gives us pure joy!  It's not just happiness; it is deep joy that cannot be shaken by desperate times or situations.  This joy is free is God's free gift and He intends this joy for all of us.  And, this joy gives us comfort.

So, now when you hear this carol on the radio, in the stores, at a concert this Christmas, revel in the fact that God wants to fill you with great joy because he has sent his Son to save us all from Satan's power when we have gone astray.  That is the good news to be believed this and every Christmas to come.

Prayer:  God, please make us strong in you.  Make us strong as we reflect on the birth of your only Son who you sent to earth for us.  Make us strong as we remember that we are freed from Satan's power and might as long as we trust in you.  O tidings of comfort and joy.  Amen.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Softened Heart

I must admit.  I have had a hard heart against contemporary worship music for most of my life.  I could point to all kinds of reasons.

Maybe it was because my parents took me to a non-denominational church on Sunday nights in my elementary school years when all I wanted to do was play Orff instruments and listen to the choir sing pieces from Messiah.

Maybe it was because the only radio music I was allowed to listen to was oldies, elevator music, classical or Christian (but mind you, there were NO Christian radio stations at that time in Shreveport.)

Maybe it was because I took classical piano and flute lessons, but can't improvise my way out of a paper bag.

Maybe and most likely, it is because during my senior year of high school and into college, my parents left our traditional Methodist church and my dad began playing bass and singing in a contemporary Methodist church which left me going to church without my family.  Whatever psychological reason, my heart was hardened.

Since taking on the Music Ministry job at my current Methodist church, my heart has slowly been melting.  God has been working a number on it.  I had to find a way to make the middle service at Easter more contemporary with a classical group.  The Worship team asked if I would sing with them, though we haven't found a date yet to do that.  I led all the music at our rocking Cave Quest VBS in June.

In April, I attended an Amy Grant concert.  She was THE. ONLY. contemporary Christian singer I liked in my junior and senior high years.  Amy rocked it, but what blew me away were the other two women with her on stage--Nichol Nordeman and Ellie Holcomb.  Such a different sound than the Chris Tomlin's of the world.  I became more curious about these women-- their sound and voices.

Well, as it turns out, this Sunday our entire worship team is out of town being it is the 4th of July weekend and it happens to be our new pastor's first Sunday.  So, Ben has asked me to sing 4 praise songs with him and one other extremely talented youth who will also play guitar.  Think of it as the unplugged coffeehouse set.

If my Dad were here, his jaw would probably have dropped to the ground had I broken this news to him.  On the other hand, my Mom thinks he would be "proud of the Jesus in you shining a light in the lives of His children."   

Either way, know that if you think you will never do "such-n-such," God probably has a different plan than you do.  He knows what is good for us and finds a way to soften our hearts.  Maybe it is a way to use us for his good and teach us lessons to come to know him better just as the Israelites had hardened hearts in the wilderness.  

So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
    though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ [b]
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.  Hebrews 3:8-14

So, "today" I will listen for his voice and sing what he wants me to sing.  I will search as to how he wants to use me whether it is through contemporary, traditional, play songs, lullabies or hymns.  It is all good music to His ears and His name is to be praised.

See you at 9:30 worship tomorrow at Suncreek UMC!!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saying Good-bye to Worry

"There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall,
                                           and the bells in the steeple too.
                                     And, up in the nursery an absurd little bird,
is pooping out to say Cuckoo."

It's a song from my favorite movie/musical, of course--The Sound of Music.  How can anyone forget it?  Strangely, it popped into my head as I was grappling with my issue today.  We will call this issue:  "that thing."  There was a phone message left.  A returned phone call made and message left.  I just barely caught the 2nd call.  Of course, not what I wanted to hear and left dazed, in denial, sad, worried and stressed.

It's interesting how something can sound sad even though it may not be, like the clock in the hall or the bells in the steeple.  Maybe it is just a warning or a alert to something.  But, that little bird that pops out is the one I want to smack!  He is just obnoxious and absurd creeping into my brain telling me, "You need to worry.  This is a big deal and what are you going to do about it?"  He is the one trying to make me go cuckoo, even when I know better.

I opened Facebook a little later and was immediately reminded of the truth.  A dear woman was led by God to post something that reminded me again about what I needed to do. The truth lies in the next section of the song.

"Regretfully they tell us, but firmly they compel us 
to say good-bye...."

The truth is I can't do anything about "that thing."  All I can do is give God "that thing" and let him work it out.  I am casting my cares on Him because he cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7).  I am saying good-bye to "that thing" and I am not going to worry about it.  Good-bye cuckoo bird whispering in my ear. Fly away and be gone.

Jesus asks-Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:27

The answer is no.  So, my action plan is to say good-bye and pray trusting that God has "that thing" in his hands.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 8- Hill Family Adventure

Yesterday wore us out so we got a later start and had a big breakfast of leftovers at home.

Our plan was to hit highlights or things of the beaten path. First up was the Monument Basin hike. This was a 1 mile hike up a 750 ft. elevation.
I was a bit apprehensive at first due to walking along the river so early in the morning. This was prime bear environment.
It wasn't an easy hike but we did it and it was well worth it. We didn't pass a single solitary human the entire time,
 just one little old snake!

The basin was very cool because there was no boardwalk or barrier. We could get right up next to the chimney pot geyser! The view was spectacular as well.

We HAD to go back and have a better time at the Boiling river so we headed up to Mammoth. Along the way we stopped at the Hoodoo rocks and climbed around. This area is unlike anything else in the park.

We had a snack lunch and headed down to the river. It was so nice this time. No rain, no hail. The water level was higher due to the rain the previous day and the current was stronger too, but still the perfect spots.

Back in the car we went and headed south all the way to the trail head of Fairy Falls. We hiked about a mile and then scrambled up a hill to get an amazing view of Grand Prismatic. Of course, we stopped to draw and paint. How spectacular!

We finished our drive by catching the Black Sand Basin. Probably the favorite here was Sunset lake.
7 miles, 103 floors today! Whew!

Back to West Yellowstone for dinner at Bullwinkles!  We had such a phenomenal expolring God's playground of imagination.  Makes ya think, was the whole world like this before the fall or the flood?  I can't wait to ask Him!

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Day 7- Hill Family Adventure

It was another early morning into the park. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy. We headed south to all the major basins and tried to dodge the rain. Several times ineffectively. Luckily, Dad had purchased an umbrella and a few ponchos before going to the park.  WeTook a short cut-off drive first to see Firehole Falls.  (Go ahead, we sang the Fireball song all day substituting Firehole!)

The first stop was the Lower Basin.
Here we saw Jet Geyser and Spasm. We weren't quite as prepared for the damp, and we headed back to the car for a drive of Firehole Lake.

It seemed to be the theme of the day of just missing geysers going off right before we get there and only seeing them from a distance, the first being White Dome.

The rain had ceased for our stop at Midway Basin. We walked up the hill to the Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic, however it was so cold and steamy that it was almost invisible, our view was extremely obscured. What was cool, the colors were reflected into the steam.

Next we headed into Biscuit Basin where we saw Sapphire pool and Jewel Geyser.

Old Faithful had just gone off when we arrived. So, we watched two videos and looked at the exhibits. Of course, it was rainy during our morning view of the 10:53 eruption. It was still glorious and amazing.

Since we had a light breakfast and there was still rain, we visited Old Faithful Inn. The coolest thing about this lobby was everything was made of lodge pole pine and it was open all the way to the 5 story Crow Nest. We waited about 30 minutes and then had lunch in the Dining room.

After lunch the sun appeared and we set off on the 2 mile Geyser Hill hike. Some of our favorites were the Lion Group, Sawmill, Beauty pool and Grotto. Again, we just missed Daisy but saw her from a distance.

But most amazing was Morning Glory pool where we pulled out our sketch pads and colored.

On the way back Grotto was erupting like crazy and we could see the Grand going off in the distance. Castle was a cool formation but it was not scheduled to go off until 8:00 that night. The boys played on tree trunk see saws while we waited. We waited around for Old Faithful in the sunshine one more time.

We continued along the South Loop to the Mud Volcano. It was a long drive and by the time we arrived, so had the rain. Here our favorite was Dragon Mouth's Spring. He growled, smelled, hissed and pushed waves of water out of his mouth.

We rushed through the rest of the boardwalk remembering that we finished the day as it began. On our drive back to Canyon we were stuck in traffic due to bison watching. Then at the Madison junction we had more traffic. We learned not leave the park at 7.  However we caught one extra waterfall at the Virginia Cascade between Canyon and Norris.

We ended up back in West Yellowstone at 8:30 and Kendrick was falling asleep over his plate of Bison nachos. 13 hours in the park and 8 walking miles later we were done.

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