July 13, 2014

Where Do You Seek Counsel?


 
Sunday Scripture

and a

Song

  





"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

 Matthew 6:33

 

Why is it that we try to figure things out on our own, when our Counsel is only a prayer away?

Is it because of the free will God has given us, the choice to make our own decisions? 

Whenever I think I know what I should do, I should pause and ask my Counselor.

I should try to discern if what I am choosing is God's will for me. 

And then, I need to really listen and believe it. 

Most times, I want to call the shots. I want to make my choices, and they're not always the ones my Lord wants for me. Usually, I pay the price, and it's never pleasant. 


Prayer: Lord, help me to hear Your Voice, to discern Your Will, and to follow the path You've laid out for me (rather than charging ahead on my own). Thank you for loving me, and for always being there, even when I mess up. I am forever grateful to know you are near. Amen. 


For your listening enjoyment, the Marantha Singers perform "Seek Ye First" 


Music is a beautiful way to worship God.

If you've ever wondered why we worship, here's a quote I came across that sums it up pretty well:  "Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth." ~ John Piper, preacher and author 


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June 27, 2014

A Great Time of Fun and Learning - VBS 2014


WEIRD ANIMALS VBS DAYS 4 & 5







On day #4 we met this cool dude - Shred! He helped us learn that even when we do wrong, Jesus loves us!



Then on our last day, Iggy, the frilled lizard helped us remember that even when you're afraid, Jesus loves you!






Weird Animals VBS might be over for this year at our church, but many memories were made that won't soon be forgotten. So much joy was shared by the children, youth leaders and adults! Everyone had a wonderful time, enjoying our time together and learning how much our God and Savior loves us.

The music was lively, the message was clear, and it was so much fun to watch the children with all of their combined energy. 

Though leading VBS might take over my life for nearly a week, the rewards of the joyful smiles and fun times had by all make it truly worth it.

I drove home after our last session, thinking, "I have the best job in the world! Singing and sharing with the children the great joy of Jesus' love." It really doesn't get any better than that!


Here are two more videos for songs that our group really liked:

Give It Away


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Forever Reign

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June 25, 2014

Could We Have Any More Fun?!



Weird Animals VBS
Day 3






As we continue VBS at FUMC Waukesha, it just seems like we couldn't have any more fun, but we do! The craziness continues with songs and games and learning, all about how much Jesus loves us!




This is Milton, the Star-nosed mole. He doesn't really wear glasses, but he is quite blind. His awesome nose helps him find his way through his underground tunnels. What a weird and wonderful animal!



Our kids are learning that no matter what, Jesus loves us!  And these crazy creatures  help us to remember that even when we're left out, or we feel different than others, or even when we don't understand, Jesus loves us!

Here is a video of one of our new songs You Are Good!



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June 23, 2014

Their Energy is Amazing!


Day 2 of Weird Animals VBS

Where Jesus' Love is One-of-a-Kind




Our VBS kids have the greatest energy! All of that energy combined and focused is something you really have to experience. The only way to describe being all together praising God while we sing songs and learn about Jesus' love is JOYOUS! These kids are the best!





Meet Fern, today's Bible Memory Buddy. 

Fern is a character who is a Leafy Sea Dragon


These creatures really exist!



Today we learned that even though we're different, Jesus Loves Us. No matter what.







Today at Weird Animals VBS, we learned a new song that the kids really liked. 
Here's a video of Rise and Sing from Group

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June 22, 2014

Let the Crazy Fun Begin!


Sunday Scripture

and a

Song

 And the start of VBS!
  
"I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:20

Axl the Axolotl


It's here! Let the crazy fun begin!

Dozens of kids will be in the pews ready for some fun and excitement. Vacation Bible School starts tonight at our church, and I have the awesome pleasure of leading the children in singing and learning about Jesus' love. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Vacation Bible School, VBS is the place where kids come for summer fun to learn about Jesus' love through songs, skits, crafts, games, experiments and even snacks!

This year, we'll explore the world of "Weird Animals". I thought these extraordinary creatures were imaginary, but I found out that they actually do exist! Unfortunately, some are threatened  in their existence. 

We'll share lots of songs and have lots of fun learning and sharing together this week. God always works in my heart, through the children; and by sharing His love to all of them through sharing my love and my gifts, I receive more love and joy. What a wonderful cycle! 

Yep, it's going to be a busy fun week. Come "Sing and Play" with us as we discover Weird Animals and how they connect us to God's love. 

For more info, visit our church's website, First United Methodist Church, Waukesha, WI (http://www.fumcwaukesha.org/)  


Here's a Youtube video of our theme song, All Around the World. The kids and I are going to have a lot of fun with this one!


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June 15, 2014

The Joy of Singing Praises

 


Sunday Scripture

and a

Song



"I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving."


"I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever."
Psalm 86:12


Friends who know me well, know that singing praises to the Lord is my one of my greatest joys. People comment that I smile so much when I sing, and I tell them I can't help it! My joy is evident and there for all to see.
 
It was my honor and great delight to sing Laudamus te from Vivaldi's Gloria for our congregation today as special music. My friend Wendy sang this beautiful duet with me, sharing our joy and love of the Lord. 

Before I sing, I pray that God will empty me of me, of my own selfish pride, of any vanity I might feel, and pray that He will fill me with His Holy Spirit. Then, as I sing, God's love -- through His Spirit, pours out from me. This in turn blesses those who are willing to receive, and I am blessed in the process, too!  

It is a wonderful cycle, and to be a part of sharing God's love in this way blesses me beyond description. If I could, I would sing for Him every day of my life!


Laudamus te
 Benedicimus te
 Adoramus te 
 Glorificamus te 

We praise thee
 We bless thee
We worship thee
We glorify thee

Through the process of rehearsing this song, I've enjoyed this recording of the duet. 
I thought I'd share this with you today. Enjoy!
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June 5, 2014

When God Slows Us Down



Have you ever had a season when you felt like you were waiting?

A feeling of anticipation, but laced with an underlying feeling of patience?




God slowed me down. Caused me to pause; take time for reflection. Find my way.

I knew this time was for a reason. I was patient in its nondescript emotion and the vague awareness that there was more than just waiting and healing going on.

Now I see.

God uses the time I slow down to allow my heart to hear its inner self, and His whispered direction.

I needed this time.

And from it is birthed new direction, new growth. New life.

Did I not just write about springtime and new life in my last post?

And now it is happening to me.

My heart has been opened. My eyes have been made to see clearly. That is, through my heart and not through my mind.

And I have hope, won from wandering through the valleys, lost, but still with faith.

As the sun still rises, I have a chance at being made new. We all do.

Every day.

To me, that is a great miracle. A great gift. And the bearer of hope.  To know that we are free to choose, to open our hearts, to live again.


Forgiveness is freedom.  And we have the choice to choose that, too.

Just as with an ascent at 10,000 ft., I slow my pace to catch my breath.
Take it easy, one day at a time. 
Change takes time, like getting acclimated to high elevations.



Just breathe.




All is well.







 

May 27, 2014

Burgeoning New Life, In More Ways than One


A verdant green graces the hillsides, and yellow-headed dandelions spread their color over the gentle slopes.

Budding trees share the most welcome green as their tiny leaves unfurl into the sunshine.


Blessed spring rains bring this beauty to life, and we bask in the glory of springtime in Wisconsin.

It is a celebration to feel life again in our natural world. Our never-ending winter has finally yielded to a new season.

Spring has taken her sweet time to get here. Below normal temperatures delayed blossoms from showing their faces.


Stormy winds shed magnolia petals all too soon. And dark, dreary days perpetuated the despair many of us felt through this season of cold and dark days.

But have you noticed the length of our days recently? As we near the summer solstice, the daylight stretches into the nighttime hours. Before I know it, it's 9 p.m. and the daylight has only recently faded from the sky.

Today dawns warm and humid after yesterday's rain. Soon we no longer will feel surprised as we step outside into the morning air and realize that it's actually warm outside.


Spring is exploding around us! We need to enjoy every second of this brilliant green, expansion of life. Soon we will fall face first into the vibrant energy of summertime, and then there's no slowing down until the dog days arrive and force us to move more slowly.

For now, I treasure the springtime. The celebration of new life, the discovery of new plant growth and baby bunnies, and all the joys of the season.

If nature gets a chance at renewal, shouldn't we take one, too?


 "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." 
Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)

I feel it, deep within a hidden place, a quiet space, reserved for contemplation.

A pause. A deep reflection. On ongoing attempt at finding my way. 

I pray God will guide me. I know that it is His hand that has stilled me, has slowed me; and that His love will show me the way, guiding me on this path of self discovery.

"Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me,  for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you."   Psalm 25:4-5
 
This, my life verse, guides me through all the changes in my life. I need to remember to pray this Psalm and remember its truth, and trust in the One who will lead me.

We need to be open to the changes that are happening all around us, and feel the hope that new life brings.



The promise is there for all of us, just as it is in all living things.

As the natural world sings into new life, let your heart find it's own song.

It's there, waiting to be born with the new life inside you. Nurture it, and let it grow. 

May 14, 2014

Seeking Renewal

Vernon Marsh on a Springtime Morning

As I sit by the Vernon marsh soaking up the morning sun, a soft haze covers the marsh as remnants of this morning's fog remain.

I hear all the familiar birds and waterfowl, and my spirit is calmed.

I come here for this.


We need to deliberately seek peace for the renewal of our spirit.

Our chaotic lives leave little time for the peace our spirit needs. We need to learn how to nourish ourselves in body and spirit.

Just as our bodies need calories and vitamins to thrive, so does our spirit need to be fed.

We must seek ways of spiritual nourishment in order to feed our spirit. This may be as simple as finding time to be still. It may seem difficult to find time for a spiritual practice, but without feeding our spirit, we are running on 'empty'.

Nourishing practices of prayer, meditation, and yoga allow our focus to turn inward, while freeing tension and stress from the body.

This, in turn, allows the spiritual 'body' to rejuvenate. Oftentimes, as we actively release tension from our bodies, we free our minds to seek higher thoughts.

In other words, we let go of the ways of the world and open our hearts and minds to the healing the spirit provides.

Sometimes this practice will result in a great revelation -- that "ah-HA!" moment. The nudging the spirit was trying to use to get our attention had been blocked by busyness and tension, and can now find its way into our conscious mind.

Burr Oak at Waterville Prairie
 
When we open our hearts and minds in a spiritual practice, we are free to receive messages our physical body has been trying to tell us, too.

And when we open ourselves to just 'being', we are free to receive messages from the Holy Spirit who whispers to our soul.

That still, small voice cannot be heard above the distractions of this world.


So, take time to be still. Quiet the mind, rest the body, and open your heart to seeking renewal.

This can be as simple as finding a quiet place, away from the demands of life and and our endless to-do lists.
Late Autumn Blooms at Retzer Nature Ctr.

I like to escape into nature, where I find peace and a purpose far beyond the busyness of our human lives. Here, the simple purpose is life, and living. And I celebrate that!

Wherever you go to seek quiet and peace, even if it's in your closet (trust me, there have been times when that's the only place I could find). Try to make seeking peace a practice. Here are some simple steps to guide you.

When you rest and meditate, pray that God's white light will surround you and protect you. Bask in the feeling of comfort and love. Breathe deeply, and gently, to connect with your inner self. Connect with your breath, consciously breathing out the stress.

Use this time to pray for healing, allowing yourself the honor of praying for yourself.

Pray for others who have great need, and in your earnestness, seek the comfort and counsel of the One who can guide us through the difficult and often tumultuous waters of this life.

Give thanks for the life and breath we breathe, for this moment of peace, and for the beauty in the world. It's there, if we take the time to look.


My first tulip!


A bird's song, an opening flower; the smile of a friend. New life all around us. Celebrate with joy, and you will be fulfilled, and ready to face whatever life brings your way.

May 4, 2014

Believing in Prayer

 
Photo Courtesy Best Light Photography

 Sunday Scripture

and a

Song


"God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son."
Romans 1:9 NLT 


Has anyone ever said to you, "I'll pray for you"?

Those words bring comfort when you are going through troubling times. Knowing that someone would make time in their life to lift your spirit to the Lord in prayer is very heartwarming. 

And you can truly feel those prayers. I never would have believed it if I hadn't experienced it for myself. 

During a lengthy illness a few years ago, when indeed dozens of people were praying for me, I could actually feel a peace envelop me, a comfort, to carry me through those difficult times. It is rather indescribable, but I would say the feeling is like being "lifted up" and carried on the wings of prayer.

After a bad fall recently left me with pain and injuries, friends offered to pray. I did not solicit the prayers, but upon hearing of my circumstances, people told me they would pray for me.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love to sing; indeed, singing is like breathing for me! It is my praise and worship, and my joy in living. Last evening we had our spring concert with the community choir in which I sing. My injuries threatened to steal my enjoyment of the night.

But through the prayer and love of my friends, I received a blessing of grace, and I was able to enjoy my concert and the reception following with no pain whatsoever.

I can't explain it, except to believe in the power of prayer.

The change was so dramatic from how I had been feeling. And I know that there were some friends, old and some very new, who were lifting me in prayer.

Experiencing this has charged my prayer life. Though I pause frequently throughout the day to pray for others, when prayer requests are received, or when someone who has a need comes into my thoughts, I know I will be more diligent and earnest in my requests for God's presence in these people's lives.

I believe in the power of prayer.

And I pray in gratefulness for those who pray for me. You know who you are, and I love you. 

May we all be enriched by knowing our Savior in every aspect of our daily lives, believing in the power of prayer to change us and guide us on our life's journey. Amen.


Enjoy "The Prayer" by David Forster, with Lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager
Sung by Katherine Jenkins and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 
with a brief intro by the composer  
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April 27, 2014

Morning at the Marsh



I can finally feel it.

 
Life, returning to the earth. The bitterest of winters has finally retreated, and spring is ushering in new life where there was nothing but a frozen world.





Plants, for many months dormant under the frozen ground, eagerly push up through the softening earth. We rejoice at the sight of anything green after months of nothing but white.

I honestly thought it might not happen. There was a time, several weeks ago and more than five months into the worst winter in thirty years, that part of me felt I would never see green again.

I want to capture the morning sounds of the marsh as I sit with my window open and write. My vista is the scenic overlook of the Vernon Marsh at the end of Frog Alley Road in Mukwonago. My home is somewhere across this wide expanse of nature-in-the-wild.



I come here, where the morning sun warms my face, and listen for the sounds of life returning to this place. It has been a frozen world for so long. It makes me feel peaceful to hear life returning to this place.

Now I can hear the songs of many songbirds that have returned, including the red-winged blackbirds calling to each other. If I close my eyes, I can imagine steamy, hot summer afternoons in the marsh, with tall cattails towering over me, and turtles hiding in the cool water or resting on a log warming themselves.

As I sit here with my coffee, I can hear the sand hill cranes call out sleepily from some hidden place below me in the marsh.





I hear the robins, who have begun their earnest song: 

"It's Spring! 

It's Spring!

It's Spring!"

 

 
After a difficult day recently, I came here early to spend time with God. I wanted to spend time in prayerful thankfulness for His constant presence through the trials of the previous day.

I found such healing beauty here in the morning songs of the birds, the caress of the sun, and the soft vistas of morning light, that I vowed to come back here frequently to start my day.

I've always felt closest to God through nature. And though I've never felt far from God through this seemingly endless winter, my heart has longed to feel life and hope through my connection to the living, natural world.

I always do my happy dance, at least in my heart, when I can finally feel the earth's life energy return; when I can feel the earth coming back to life as I walk through my back yard with bare feet in the cool grass.
Winter in the woods at Retzer Nature Center

Though life is present in winter, I liken it to molecules frozen in ice -- they move so slowly as to seem non-existent. This is how most of the natural world feels when we are in the deep freeze of a long Wisconsin winter. 


But now I can feel that the earth, at least here is our part of Wisconsin, is once again a living, breathing entity, full of life, offering the promise of the next two seasons of great beauty in the flowering and green plants that thrive in our seasonal warmth.

We all feel it. Everyone seems to have more energy, and people smile more readily. Perhaps this is a partial explanation as to why we live here, and why we endure the long months of bitter cold and snow.

Perhaps we wait for the reward of new life; that feeling of renewal, that grabs us and turns us to face the sun and its warmth. To know the inexplicable joy that finding that first blooming crocus brings, and to see the tulip leaves pushing up through the earth with their promise of springtime beauty.

Now I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to try living on Maui, where flowers and natural beauty bloom year-round. I'm certainly not saying that at all!


But our reward for enduring months of cold, bitter winds, is the promise and hope of new life that springtime brings. We feel this deep in our being, and wait with hope for the change in the seasons that will bring life back into our natural world. 

Truly, this renewal feeds me to the core of who I am. My creativity is flowing again, right along with the sap in the maple trees. It won't be long until summer is in full bloom. But for now, let us cherish the simple joys of springtime. And offer thanks for the many little surprises of new life that blossom around and within us. 



Here are the early morning sounds of the marsh I captured on video to share with you. Enjoy!

We are Free to Love



 Sunday Scripture

and a

Song


"Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.
   
 Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining."
1 John 2:7-8 NLT 


 A beautiful reminder of the freedom we have in Christ, sung by Aaron Shust
"We are Free"
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