O, Great God

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“O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore
I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace
Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Music and words by Bob Kauflin
© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

This song is a pure and true picture of redemption and salvation and love from our Great God. There is a plea: “O great God of highest heaven, occupy my lowly heart. Own it all and reign supreme, conquer every rebel power. Let no vice or sin remain that resists Your holy war. You have loved and purchased me; make me Yours forevermore.” Come down and live in my heart. Own all of me and be on the throne of my life and get rid of the rebelliousness in me. Let no sin or sinful tendency stay in my heart, anything that goes against You and Your purposes. Make me your child forever and ever.

There is humble realization of a person’s heart apart from Jesus and what the Holy Spirit does in a human heart: “I was blinded by my sin, had no ears to hear Your voice. Did not know Your love within; had no taste for heaven’s joys. Then Your Spirit gave me life, opened up Your Word to me. Through the gospel of Your Son, gave me endless hope and peace.” Without Jesus, we are walking in our flesh, in our humanness and cannot even read or comprehend a word in the Bible. We cannot understand His love for us and we surely cannot fathom the joy of life eternal. But, God. Then God gives us the Holy Spirit, and we finally come alive, and His word comes alive. Through Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection we have hope and peace that does not fade or go away.

And then there is a plea for help to live in this world as a follower of Jesus: “Help me now to live a life that’s dependent on Your grace. Keep my heart and guard my soul from the evils that I face. You are worthy to be praised with my every thought and deed. O great God of highest heaven glorify Your Name through me.” We cannot live a breath or walk a step without God’s grace and mercy and help. In obedience and with His aid, He protects and keeps us though we face evil and temptation. He is so worthy to be praised with everything we think and do and say. And the believer says with all His heart, “O great God of highest heaven, glorify Your name through me.”

This song is just unreal and I love it. It mirrors Christ’s saving of a human soul. Oh may we pray to and depend on and hope in this Jesus who loves us and never leaves us or forsakes us.

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Be the Match

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Be the Match. It’s simple. It’s easy. But there is a cost, a sacrifice. And there is a possibility of a future blessing one cannot prepare for or imagine or fathom.

From cancer to bone marrow disorders, a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant is sometimes a key to full recovery, remission, or just more time between another transplant. It provides hope in the midst of excruciatingly dim odds and statistics. It can give physical life where there was none.

Chemotherapy and radiation alone are not enough to cure some cancers and bone marrow disorders. Sometimes these patients who suffer from these need a brand-new start, and it’s a fresh slate that hinges on a willing, sacrificial person. It takes two people to begin and potentially finish a successful bone marrow transplant; two people – one very sick and one very healthy.

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Unlike the very sick patient, a donor willingly signs up for the bone marrow donor registry knowing he will only be giving something of himself, not knowing of its return. It’s a commitment, but a very easy “yes” when he knows the potential reward for him and his match. What’s so incredible is that this registry is worldwide. How do I know? I know firsthand, because Brandon’s donor is from Germany!

 

I remember the night we awaited Brandon’s transplant. We were on the tip-top floor of Vanderbilt Hospital, in Nashville, TN, in the smallest hospital room God ever made. It was the last wing to be renovated because of how delicate its patients were. These men and women on this hall had no immune systems to fight even the weakest virus, even something as minor as ringworm (our oldest contracted a huge ringworm on the top of his scalp several days into Brandon’s 30-day hospital stay and had to wear a ball cap as an 11-month-old to prevent Brandon from coming in contact with it. Keeping that ball cap on was a TRIP!).

There we sat, Brandon in all his bald glory (due to days of chemotherapy to get rid of his very bad bone marrow) and me in all my 10 weeks pregnant glory, watching the minutes tick by when I heard the sound we had waited to hear for months. The helicopter hum. We knew it was for us. And there we pictured Brandon’s donor sitting somewhere in Europe (we couldn’t know for a year exactly where the donor lived, but we were informed it was Europe), in a hospital, recovering from a bone marrow harvest, wondering when his donor recipient would in fact receive the life-giving marrow.

Brandon received the new marrow cells by IV over the course of a couple of hours, and after his blood pressure sky-rocketed, a stint of severe nausea and vomitting, and two glorious shots of morphine, his long days of recovery began. His years of being a daddy started all over again at Day Zero. His days of impacting this world for Jesus marched right on along, all because a precious man in east Germany signed up to potentially help another human being have a chance at physical life. God used Be the Match to give my husband more days on this earth, more babies to raise, and more opportunities to tell this story of physical redemption, prayers offered and prayers answered, and God’s work of saving souls for all of eternity.

And just a couple of months ago, Brandon was able to actually connect with his donor and tell him “thank you” and show him the tangible way his decision to sign up for the bone marrow registry has impacted our lives for the best.

It’s so easy, y’all. Even easier initially than giving blood (go give blood too!!!). Be the Match changed our lives, and I know many, many other families like ours would be so ever grateful for your sacrificial giving as a donor. Sign up today.

Hurting at Christmas

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5

What do you do when it seems the whole world ’round you is hustling and bustling and rejoicing and joyful and you… you aren’t. I’m not saying this is me, but we must consider that there may be those around us, with us, passing us, joining us this Christmas who are hurting, who are downcast, who even may be WITH hope in Jesus but are trudging through a sea of muck and mire this Christmas season.

And what about those family members coming to gather at your table who do not know and love Jesus? Whose hope is in the world and not the Creator of the world… how must we respond to them in love and compassion and gentleness and understanding?

Whew, it is e.a.s.y to be so very inward focused during this season, inward focused toward our own family nucleus in an unhealthy way. Yes, we are celebrating together the gift of Christmas and teaching our children and instilling in them traditions and heart-shaping truths that are paramount for right views of this life and the one to come. But, oh, what about those right in our midst, extended family, framily, acquaintances who hurt and are down and cannot be lifted by a joyful round of “Jingle Bells” or “O, Holy Night”?

We need to be on our knees praying them through this season. Make that list of those who you know love Jesus but are struggling this Christmas. Add to that list those who don’t hope in Jesus and don’t know the eternal joy He brings when He takes out their heart of stone and puts in them a heart of flesh. Let’s band together to pray for them earnestly and often. Pray the scriptures. Even pray this over them with their names inserted.

“‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'” Matthew 11:28-30

This world and the sinful humans in it (ME INCLUDED) muddle and mess up all the feels and all the good sometimes. But, God. Look what it says here in 1 John 5:4-5 “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The evil, the carelessness, the pride that tears at our hearts and breaks us is not the end of our joy. Look what overcomes this world and the evil and the carelessness and the pride we encounter which tries to destroy hearts – faith in JESUS. “This is the victory” 1 John says. Oh, this is the victory.

Maybe we don’t feel like celebrating with all the congregation of our family and friends this season, but know there are those praying for you and the God who has indeed OVERCOME the world.

“‘These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.'” John 16:33

Take courage. He is for you. He has overcome the world for your good and for God’s own glory. In Him there is hope for your weary, tired, beat up souls. Hope has come. Hope is alive. His name is Jesus.

O Holy Night

“Fall on your knees”

O holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees

O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night, O night divine

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error-pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees

O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night, O night divine

Words. Truth. Worship. Repeat.

It’s overwhelming to me when scripture that I have been meditating on recurs in songs or in sermons or from the lips of a fellow believer. Those words from the Bible become more clear and applicable. A sweet friend has a poignant quotation that just applies to so many areas of our lives, “Words matter.” And boy do they.

Christmas is such a sweet time. Our family’s focus is on the miraculous birth of the Savior, a remembering back to the night that began all of this celebrating. And this celebrating turns into worship for me again and again especially when the truth of God’s word is put into song form, lifting up our Jesus and his birth.

“Fall on your knees.” I am not a crier, really, I am not. But as I type out those words tears do well up in my eyes to think on at Whose feet we are to fall and why. This Jesus wasn’t just a man. He wasn’t just a wise prophet. He wasn’t even just a good, wise prophet. He was God incarnate, God with us, holy God and perfect man all in one.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. He knows us. “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” John 2:24-25. And He still came to suffer at the hands of angry men and to have the full cup of God’s wrath poured out on Himself for our sakes and for God’s glory.

Here is the Biblical truth echoed in this sweet hymn: “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, TILL He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” The word pining means to suffer grief or regret over. Us sinners were suffering grief over our sin and shame, but God! He sent Jesus. Jesus appeared to us and our soul could see why it was created finally.

We have worth, we have purpose. And this purpose is probably not what we all think it is. We aren’t created for ourselves or even really for other people. We aren’t created to have things or to just exist and survive or to live extravagantly and to spendall of our God-given income on the world’s goods.


“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

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“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees”

May we rejoice. May we see the Hope who has come. He has appeared and came as a baby on that blessed night in Bethlehem. This is Christmas. The Hope realized. Emmanuel. God with us.

 

10 years and counting

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Brandon and me a few days after engagement!

I, Maggie take thee Brandon, to be my husband. To have and to hold, in health, for richer, and I promise my love to you forevermore.”

Had these been the vows Brandon and I promised to one another, in the presence of God and each other, our marriage would have absolved, oh, on day 60 of our marriage. You see, Brandon began feeling intense pain in his side and incredible fatigue within the first 30 days of our marriage. He was so tired he couldn’t hold his eyes open past 7 p.m. each night. I didn’t mind much because I was pregnant with our honeymoon baby and gladly laid up in the bed after dinner, and we played Uno until our eyes shut around 7:30 p.m. Did you know you can play the longest game of Uno known to man by playing with only one other player? Yes, it’s true!

But, no, thankfully, the traditional vows begin like this:

“I, Maggie take thee Brandon, to be my husband. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you forevermore.”

Most marriages do not play out like our perfect little picture we had as little girls or as engaged 20-somethings or even 40- or 50-somethings. There’s a little thing called “God’s plan” that is higher and bigger and better than anything we could ever, ever imagine. What’s most important to the Lord is our relationship with Him, and He will allow and even use trials, affliction, hardship, and loss to draw us to emptiness so we will see that we can do nothing apart from Him.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

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Brandon and CB at Vanderbilt, August 2009

In the middle of the 18 month long sickness, transplant, and recovery, we didn’t realize our faith was growing, but, by God’s grace, we were drawing near to God and seeking Him and experiencing many, many others do the same on our behalf. I would never trade what God taught Brandon and I and our family and friends about who He is, what He does, and how He cares for His people and how He can change a heart to know and trust Him in the midst of deep affliction.

Tomorrow marks 10 years since I walked down that aisle to that blond headed, freckle faced buff guy. Today, those strong arms embrace not only me but five incredible, unique gifts of God. We pretty much planned none of the events that happened or the places we have lived or the paths we have walked over the past decade. But God did! And for that I am so crazy thankful.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Do not fear when the heat comes, because it is coming. You will not have planned for the drought, but if you continue feasting on God’s word daily, reading daily His promises, and continually reminding yourself of what God has done and who He is, your leaves will remain green and you will not cease to bear fruit. Put your dreams and ideals and picture-perfection at the feet of Jesus and ask Him, “What do You want for our marriage, for our family? May it be as You say and teach me to trust You and Your plans as they are for my good and Your glory.”

 

Sweet tea show down

As a native of the south, there are staples in our culture that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Gumbo, cornbread, fried chicken, pot roast, banana pudding, the list goes on and on. On the top of my list of things that make the south the best place to live is sweet tea.

While I was growing up, Mom had a 2 quart tupperware pitcher she served her sweet tea in. She steeped the tea bags in boiling water inside a cute little black tea kettle. Then added the perfect amount of sugar to the pitcher plus the steeped tea. She filled the pitcher up with water, stirred, and she was done. A pitcher of sweet tea never stayed around our home for long. She made a new one at least every other day. We are definitely carrying on this tradition up in this house today.

Sweet tea is serious business in our family. And the brand of tea I use in my home today just cannot be tampered with. Okay, as a family of seven, we budget our grocery trips tightly, so I thought I needed to skimp on buying MY brand which is $3.19 at Kroger for the other brand which rang up $2.29. I brought it home and tried the other brand, and it literally was terrible. No matter how sweet I made it, the tea was bitter and not smooth. I actually threw the rest of the box away, shaming myself for trying to skimp on tea. Want to know the good verses evil tea brands?

 

GOOD

EVIL

 

The most important thing about this situation is that Luzianne actually originated in Louisiana, so naturally it’s got the south’s best taste in mind. Lipton, on the other hand, actually began its commercial life with a powered tea mix… need I say more? I ain’t doing it.

Tongue-in-cheek, obviously, for calling Lipton evil, but it truly differs dramatically especially when you make unsweet tea. It just has a weak, bitter flavor, no matter the amount of bags you use.

So here is how we make our sweet tea in the Sheridan home. I have experimented with boiling the bags with the hot water on the stove top and adding a pinch of baking soda for an even smoother taste. Here is where we have landed for the perfect sweet tea.

The South’s Best Sweet Tea

Ingredients

4 bags Family Size Luzianne Tea

4 cups water

4 quart pitcher

1 1/4 cups white sugar

  1. Bring four cups of water to boil in a sauce pan. Pour immediately into pitcher then place 4 bags of Luzianne tea in pitcher and cover with lid. Allow to steep at least 10 minutes.
  2. Next, carefully remove tea bags from pitcher and discard. Add 1 1/4 cups of white sugar and thoroughly stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Then fill pitcher to the top with water. Stir one more time. ENJOY!
  3. Side note: I do enjoy having a 50/50 many days. That’s just half sweet tea, half unsweet tea. To make unsweet tea, follow the same recipe just without sugar. And to make the perfect 50/50, you first put the unsweet tea in and then pour the sweet tea on top. That ensures a true 50/50!

So, if you are looking for the best tea to brew in your home, go get you some Luzianne! Walmart has it the cheapest, but if you have to pay $1 more at your local grocery store, please please do it – you won’t regret it!

Change of Course

I love coneflowers. They like it hot and require very little maintenance. Butterflies and bees think they are legit, too.

About two years ago, we moved just five miles down the road from the first home we owned as a married couple. That flowerbed was covered in coneflowers. And butterflies. And coneflowers.

As the coneflower finishes its bloom, the center dries up and can be lobed off and discarded or sprinkled in another area to seed and create another coneflower plant. We continually did this at our last house, and we literally had dozens upon dozens of plants; so much so, I had to gift the tiny plants to anyone who would take them. For me to give away a coneflower plant is a big deal!

But we moved, you see. And now we have this strange flower bed that holds water and has poor soil. Even after Brandon tilled the bed and brought in good stuff to mix in with the bad soil, we have a pretty terrible time with this bed.

Cue the coneflower planting. They like it hot and require very little water. These surely will live, right? Right?

Wrong.

Two mature plants didn’t even make it the full season last year. And this year, one died and has barely made it above five inches, even by the end of August! Mom bought me three coneflower plants at the beginning of summer, and they are LONG gone. I bought several more and the husband got a little chemical happy, and they quickly deceased. And just about two months ago I bought three and ONE has survived. Okay? So, what in the world is the difference between here and our other house?

I don’t really know. They grew like weeds in Oakland, but they won’t grow, won’t flourish because of a handful of stimulants and factors. So, maybe I just need to plant something different, change the course of my gardening.

Change the course. Change the direction and vision.

I sit here today with a quiet home. It’s 11:58 a.m., and there is no one asking for lunch or whining because they want the toy their sibling has. Change of course.

Since the fall of 2014, our family has homeschooled. It was rocky at times, but it was good at times. Carter completed Kindergarten reading, and we were rejoicing. At that time we had a 6 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old, and 4 month old. The days seemed unending. And I, I barely made it to bedtime.

Fall of 2015 brought in another classmate – Sister girl began Kindergarten. But by the end of that year, she struggled to even identify one sight word. Still, I thought, “Surely, with a little maturity under her belt, we can manage and press on.” So, we continued onto first grade in the fall of 2016. For her to sit and focus, I would have needed a seat belt in our chairs. Our middle child had just turned four, and his enthusiasm for learning and working signaled a huge red flag in our schooling with Sister.

We went first to the ophthalmologist to rule out any vision problem in the spring of 2017. And she passed with flying colors. Next, we had her screened for dyslexia. And BAM! There came our roadblock along with severe attention and focus issues. We then saw a psychologist who confirmed the ADHD and dyslexia, deemed it severe with each issue, and Sister was diagnosed with a very helpful stimulant which allows her to finally focus and pay attention. She vocalized a marked difference when she took the medicine. She said, “Momma, I can do my math!” Like, she could actually do it, finish it, feel a sense of accomplishment that she hasn’t felt her whole life, and she was 7 years old.

Change of course.

Homeschooling seemed to work for us for a few years, but then we began to see problems that we knew we needed help with that couldn’t be accomplished inside the home. Like those dad-gum coneflowers. Oh how I still really, really, really love those things. I just cannot, I mean cannot, make them thrive, flourish, grow in my new flowerbed. Why? I don’t know, truly. But it’s just not happening.

Cue change of course. Public school for CB and Sister this school year! CB is being challenged and pushed academically, and we are so privileged to get to address heart issues with him as he is the most talkative after school and tells us every single detail of his day. We are incredibly thankful for how God made CB like that. Sister is thriving socially and given one on one help with her dyslexia and sounding out words and even reading some sight words now. We are making progress. At home, we were not. At home, CB would get out of doing flash cards for math or I would tire so easily because of the three little ones who still needed me whilst attempting to give the two olders the schooling they needed. It wasn’t working. They weren’t thriving. We weren’t growing as a family in a healthy way. Change of course.

God led us peacefully to enroll these precious souls into public school in Somerville. I look at them and know that they belong to God, and He will use them mightily for His glory and the advancement of His name. It is overwhelming that they are His, and we are theirs only for a short time to train and instruct and guide. But He is faithful to keep them, protect them, and give us wisdom in how to walk with them through each day and trial.

My flowerbed has changed since moving. Box woods and daylilies. That’s about it. But they are thriving and growing and living. The flowerbed is lovely, and I will plant what will grow in this soil and have a happy heart about it! But, change is painful. Change is sometimes not what we think we want or think we need. But God gives us little precious souls that are not like any other He ever created and they join up with other siblings to make a sweet family. Their specific, individual personalities, difficulties, and strengths may need something different than we originally planned to thrive and grow and become the men and women God has planned for them to be. We have to learn to set aside our wants and desires and submit to God’s plan because it is always, ALWAYS, always best.