Thursday, December 24, 2015

Breath of Heaven: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 24

​These lyrics are a prayer my heart beats every day: "Breath of Heaven, hold me together."

Genesis tells us God's breath is what brought the very first human to life. God's breath still sustains us, and it is the only thing that holds us together. I pray you take a breather in these last hours of the Christmas season and allow God's breath to fill your lungs. Whether you're singing Silent Night at church or staying up late to assemble the last gifts, may you inhale and exhale and remember His goodness.

Day 24: Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) written by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant, performed by Amy Grant

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tips for My Children on "The Marrying Type"

Katie and Jackson,

Today is the 20th anniversary of the start of our family. On December 23, 1995, your father gave me the honor of becoming his wife.

In a few years, you might think your mother is terribly dull and dim. You'll wonder where her brains went and why she doesn't understand much about life. While you are free - and might even be encouraged - to think that, I DO want you to know I fully, 100% understand life... especially the hardest and best parts of it, like marriage.

In an effort to help you find a person you might want to spend the rest of your days with, I thought of some things you might want to look for in a spouse. I hope you will indulge me as I dispense a little advice, and you might even laugh a little along the way. Look for someone like this:
  • ​The kind of person who will help you mop up a flooded basement
  • And dance in restaurants with you
  • And look at you with love-filled eyes
  • Who will want you no matter how many stretch marks you have or jean sizes you've gone through
  • Who will tolerate stopping to take hundreds of photos in a town you want to explore
  • Who, on the 23rd anniversary of the day you met, will rub your head in the emergency room and sit on a tiny bed to hold you
  • Who will change ALL the dirty diapers for your newborn in the hospital, not permitting you to do it yourself because you're recovering from surgery
  • Who will encourage independence for you in pursuing outside friendships, knowing spouses don't have to be your everything - and, honestly, shouldn't be anyway
  • Who will trust you to stay connected to high school friends, even a select few of the opposite gender
  • Who will trust your judgment enough to say yes to church and follow the dance steps you show him for dancing with Jesus
  • Who will ask you to stand beside him when he goes public about surrendering his life to Jesus
  • Who will pray for you in the dark hours of every morning before leaving for work
  • Who will get up at an ungodly hour to get to work early so he can make it home for the Cub Scout meeting
  • Who gives his word and keeps it
  • Whose chin trembles at sappy movies
  • Who is the first to say sorry
  • Who will stand beside you at funerals and hold you while you weep... and weep WITH you
  • Who reminds you every single day in the pit of postpartum depression that you will be okay
  • Who will indulge your love for kitchen gadgets by buying you an avocado slicer for Christmas
  • Who tolerates you cross stitching silly sayings on pillows
  • Who will drive an hour out of the way to get a geocache in another state for your children
  • Who will clean the disgusting shower without being asked
  • Who will change the dressings on your wounds
  • Who will set firm boundaries while living in a state of grace and second chances
  • Who will not keep a record of your wrongs, even when you do
  • Who will not give you what you deserve and always believes the best about you
  • Who loves you enough to stop chasing you when you storm off during a fight
  • Who looks at you with a twinkle in his eyes, as if you share a secret no one else on this earth will ever know
  • Who (sometimes annoyingly) knows you better than you know yourself

To my daughter and son: please find someone you can trust even more than yourself. Don't settle for "good enough" and don't sell yourself short. On the other hand, don't think more of yourself than you should! Your future spouse will change everything about you. He or she will bring out every worst characteristic you don't even know you have, and polish off more than a few rough spots. He or she will also deepen you and help you grow in magnificent ways. This person is the one you will have an unbreakable bond with, so make sure it's a person you'll want to stay bonded to forever. There is no going back when you make a promise like marriage. It's a covenant, not a contract!

To my husband: thank you for giving me more than just a new name. I will never be able to measure up to you and the ways you give yourself to me. Your loyalty, passion, security and sense of adventure is unlike anyone I've ever met. Even after 20 years of marriage, there are days I look at you and say to myself, "I cannot believe HE is MINE!" Thank you for loving me deeply and for showing me how to allow that love to heal me in some deeply broken places. You make me feel safe and wanted, and I am still so in love with you. Happy 20th anniversary!

To all three of you: twenty years is a drop in the bucket, and we have so much more ahead of us! I pray we keep each other safe, encouraged, and loved.

Always and forever,

O Holy Night: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 23

​Love means helping someone know his worth. It's showing another person she matters and is worth fighting for.

This lyric from O Holy Night, written by Adolphe Adam, is the epitome of God's love for us. Our souls didn't know their true value until Jesus came and showed us we are worth dying for. Can you fathom that? It hardly makes sense!

I bet the song O Holy Night has been recorded hundreds of times, but my very favorite version is by David Phelps. I love his version so much I listen to it year-round.

My only regret about it is I wish my parents could have heard this version before they died. Dad would have come unglued listening to David Phelps sing, and Mom would have sobbed the ugly cry because she always teared up when we sang O Holy Night in church. David's version of this song would have unraveled her!

Day 23: O Holy Night, written by Adolphe Adam, performed by David Phelps

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Snow: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 22

Like yesterday's lyrics, today's song is one I first heard at church. I don't remember the sermon or even the year, but I will never forget my friend Emily singing it on a darkened stage. It was simple and quiet and one of the holiest moments I've ever witnessed.

This song is just that: simple, quiet and holy. It's the best reminder for me of God's ability to restrain His magnificent power in order to save the people He adores; the same people who can't quite handle magnificent power because it would shock us. God is - thankfully - willing to become quiet, soft and slow so we can understand Him better.

This is why God gives the best gifts. He gives in a way the recipient would be most comfortable and receptive. It's unconditional love!

Day 22: Winter Snow, written and performed by AudreyAssad

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 21

Oh, this song STILL gives me chills! Not necessarily the song itself, but the memory of the first time I heard it in a live setting.

It was at Christmas Eve church services in 2010, and the sermon was about bells being a reminder of God's presence in our lives. At the end of the service, this song was sung.

At its peak crescendo the song morphed into the chorus of Glorious One by Steve Fee, which was a throwback to the key song we sang at church the Easter before. Imagine going from "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men," straight into "Glorious One! Glorious One! Light of the world, You outshine the sun!" and at that very moment, bell ringers and chimes and all sorts of clinking filled our church auditorium. OH. MY. GOODNESS. This memory is why the song "I Heard the Bells" is so deeply embedded in my heart!

Want to see a recording of this exact moment I described? Here's a link to the YouTube video.

​Day 21's song is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, performed by Casting Crowns.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Joseph's Lullaby: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 20

Joseph's Lullaby is a song that knows no season in our house. We listen to it year-round, because it is a lullaby we play when tucking the kids into bed. When I snuggle my kids in the dark at the end of the day, this song reminds me how God's presence lives in my children. Neither of my children are baby Jesus, of course, but they are both precious to Him! (Spoiler alert: so am I and so are you!)

I love this song especially because it bucks tradition: most Christmas songs that focus on the Christ child are centered on Mary and Jesus. This song is written from Joseph's perspective, and it is so tenderly and quietly beautiful.

Day 20: Joseph's Lullaby, written by Fred Pratt Green & Russell Schulz-Widmar, performed by MercyMe

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Here with Us: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 19

Think about it: God made the woman who birthed Him. God made the innkeeper who turned His family away. God made the shepherds and Magi who worshiped Him. God even made the people who crucified Him. This song reminds me only God could be big enough to become small.

Day 19's lyrics come from the song Here with Us, written by Joy Williams and Jason Ingram, performed by Joy Williams.

Friday, December 18, 2015

While You Were Sleeping: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 18

CONVICTING. If I had to describe this song in one word, "convicting" is what I would choose. While You Were Sleeping, written by Mark Hall and performed by Casting Crowns, is day 18 of my lyrical Christmas countdown.

This song is especially unique because there aren't a lot of Christmas-themed songs that compel me to look at my life in a different way, and While You Were Sleeping definitely jars me awake from the sleepwalking life I sometimes live.

May each of us wake from our darkness by allowing the Light of the world to shine into our lives!

"Wake up, sleeper!" (Ephesians 5:14)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Belleau Wood: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 17

Day 17's song is ​Belleau Wood, written by Garth Brooks and Joe Henry, performed by Garth Brooks. The Christmas truce of 1914 has become a military legend, and this song tells the story of what happened.

I don't think Christmas truces are a common occurrence, and I don't think one will happen this year. Our military is engaged in battle every single day, regardless of the holidays. I pray for them and their families daily, but especially on Christmas.

I am eternally thankful for the Christmas trees in bunkers, lights strung across barbed wire, Santas spiffed up in full military dress, and the men and women who find ways to celebrate even in the worst circumstances.

May we all look for Heaven in our muck and own personal war zones. "Heaven's not beyond the clouds, it's just beyond the fear."

Please take a moment to watch a YouTube video of this song, which gives you an idea of Christmas for our military.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Same Old Lang Syne: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 16

You thought this Lyrical Christmas Countdown was going to be all classic carols and hymns, didn't you? Nope!

Day 16's song isn't a carol, but it DOES have lyrics and the event the song describes happens on Christmas Eve. And most qualifying of all, I like it! I'm not quite sure why, but the melody and the lyrics get my heart all twisted into a knot. Maybe it's the "what might have been" factor (which I can relate to because I often think of what might have been if my family members were still alive) or maybe because it's a song about the relentless passage of time (which keeps speeding up for me, even more at Christmas time). Either way, the song doesn't just pull on my heartstrings; it strums them and plucks tears into my eyes.

One more thing: what exactly is "lang syne?" It's from a 1700s Scottish song called "Auld Lang Syne," which can be translated to "times gone by." Substitute these words in the lyrics above, and the song becomes: "reliving in our eloquence another time gone by."

On this 8th anniversary of Dan Fogelberg's death (12/16/07), take a moment to pause and remember your own "times gone by."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Away in a Manger: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 15

The first two verses of the hymn Away in a Manger were said to be written by Martin Luther and originally called Luther's Cradle Song, written for his children. Originally, it didn't have a tune attached to it. When it was published in 1885 it was titled Away in a Manger and had a tune with it. The third stanza - my favorite - was written by Charles H. Gabriel and published in 1892. Wikipedia says Gabriel credited the entire text to Luther and gave it the title Cradle Song.

But it turns out some people think Luther didn't write it because there is no record of it in his papers. Some say it was written 400 years after Luther's birth and attributed to him as a marketing ploy. 

Honestly, I don't have a dog in this fight and don't much care who wrote it. I simply love those lyrics because they are a prayer: the quietest cry of the human heart.

Be with me, Lord Jesus! Stay close by me. Amen!

Monday, December 14, 2015

We Have a Savior: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 14

This countdown is officially moving in to my really REALLY favorite Christmas songs!

Day 14 is the song We Have a Savior written by Ben Glover & Reuben Morgan and performed by Hillsong: "We are no longer lost, 'cause He has come down for us. We have a Savior."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

He Shall Reign Forevermore: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 13

Often, things don’t quite turn out like we expect. Today, my Not Quite involved rain, a dog bakery, a broken birthday bone, and an accident under the Christmas tree.

Day 13’s lyrics are from He Shall Reign Forevermore by Chris Tomlin and Matt Maher. The lyrics speak to another Not Quite: the world’s Savior came in bleak darkness and his throne was a dirty stable. While looking up information about this song, I heard about another Not Quite. Here’s the story:

This song was written by Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin, and can be found on Tomlin’s live worship album Adore. The day of the live recording event, Maher was sick and had to back out. The concert went on and the song was recorded without him. That’s a big Not Quite, isn’t it? But there IS an online video where the two singers recorded an acoustic version instead. If you’re interested, here is the link. Forward to about 6 minutes in to hear the song, or watch the entire video to hear the whole story.

The song is an echo of a poem written by Christina Rossetti in 1872 for the magazine Scribner's Monthly. Here are some of her words I really like: “But His mother only, in her maiden bliss, / Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.”

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 12

IMG_7982Like a few other songs in the countdown, this one was written for a movie. In this instance, the movie was Meet Me in St. Louis.

In 2006, an Entertainment Weekly article reported that the lyrics “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” were originally written as “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past.” Whoa, baby!

Personally, I’m very glad the lyrics became “Let your heart be light.” I’m glad the lyrics don’t say something like “May your heart be light.” The “let” part implies that lightening my heart and my spirits is a decision *I* have to make. It is my responsibility to allow light in; I must choose to twinkle. Today, let each of us choose light!

{During this countdown, I’ll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Friday, December 11, 2015

I Pray On Christmas: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 11

IMG_79802015 has wrenched my soul. The world seems to be unraveling every day: terrorist attacks, protests at colleges and clinics, natural disasters, health crises... the list is unending. I have spent hours this year begging God to “show us what love's about.” Pray. Pray! Who's with me?

The lyrics for Day 11 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown are from the song I Pray on Christmas, written & performed by Harry Connick, Jr.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mary, Did You Know?: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 10

IMG_7978In my mind, this song has a closely-related sibling. There’s another song from the musical Les Miserables that quotes Victor Hugo’s words, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” What both songs have in common is the truth that love is the closest we can get to seeing the face of God in this lifetime. I think of Jesus’ mother, and what it must have been like for her as the first human being to lay eyes on Salvation. That thought makes me breathless!

The lyrics for Day 10 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown are from the song Mary, Did You Know? written by Mark Lowry.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Take a Walk Through Bethlehem: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 9

IMG_7975You know Christmas isn't meant for only December 25th, right? It isn't about staying off the naughty list or hanging tinsel. We've turned it into that, the way we sometimes take the best and brightest things of life and try to one-up and add more more more! More isn't always more, y'all.

Peel your eyes off the glittery tinsel and slow down. Walk. Breathe. Be intentional. If you let it, Christmas will last past December 25th. Do you want it to?

The lyrics for Day 9 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown are from the song Take a Walk through Bethlehem, written by Ashley Cleveland, John Barlow Jarvis and Wally Wilson, performed by Trisha Yearwood.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite #lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2000 Decembers Ago: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 8

IMG_7952Right now, our world is overcome by ache and pain. There are days we can hardly see any light, much less imagine what it would be like to witness heaven and nature sing. Your challenge is to look at your circumstances today and see potential and promise instead of pain and darkness. Can you look at a dirty stable and envision Rescue? Can you look at your circumstances through eyes of hope for Redemption?

The lyrics for Day 8 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown are from the song 2000 Decembers Ago, written and performed by Joy Williams.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite #lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Monday, December 7, 2015

O Come O Come Emmanuel: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 7

IMG_7950Day seven’s lyrics are a plea that a rescuer will come and redeem His captive beloved. For centuries, the people of Israel were told they were God's people and yet they were in deep despair: civil unrest, unfair treatment, attack from all sides. Their hearts begged God for freedom from tyranny, never realizing God would bring big “F” Freedom from big “T” Tyranny.

God is like that: He gives us more than we could ever ask for!

Day 7 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown is from O Come O Come Emmanuel, the version translated by John Mason Neale.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite #lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Sunday, December 6, 2015

O Little Town of Bethlehem: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 6

IMG_7946O Little Town of Bethlehem has a melody that makes my heart think of still, quiet moments. This is why the lyrics are some of my Christmas favorites.

Imagine the little town of Bethlehem, not knowing the day Jesus was born was THE day they had been hoping would arrive for so long. Imagine living in fear for centuries, and not seeing the wings of the Almighty unfolding at your front door to bring relief?

His feathers, right on your front steps.

Day 6 of the Lyrical Christmas Countdown is from O Little Town of Bethlehem, written by Phillips Brooks.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite #lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Silent Night: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 5

IMG_7943One of the definitions of “pure” is “free from any contamination.” When I think of the life of Christ, I see “pure” in its purest, truest form.

These Day 5 lyrics from Silent Night by Father Joseph Mohr point me to the spotless, blameless Savior who became dirty so I could become clean. Thank you, God!

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite #lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Friday, December 4, 2015

I’ll Be Home for Christmas: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 4

IMG_7941The lyrics for Day 4 come from a song everyone’s heard over and over through the years. It’s a song that can be somewhat tired and not one of the ones I instantly seek out when the Christmas season starts.

But when I forget the tune and think only about the words in it, I remember this song is about longing and separation. And THAT speaks to me!

I will spend the rest of my life longing for Home and the hope of being reunited with the people I’m separated from – the ones still alive and the ones who have died. At the same time, I know that Home really isn’t a place – it’s the state of my heart and whether I’ve invited the Creator of the world to live there. This year, Christmas Eve will find me… at home and at Home.

{During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.}

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Do They Know It’s Christmas?: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 3

IMG_7939Day 3 of my Lyrical Christmas Countdown brings a more mainstream, popular Christmas song. Today's lyrics are from Do They Know It’s Christmas?, written by Bob Geldorf and Midge Ure and performed by Band Aid.

In researching lyrics and finding my favorite songs, I’ve realized there are so many Christmas songs that mention light – even songs that aren’t faith-based. I love how the Light finds a way no matter what!

During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our Lullaby: Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 2

IMG_7937It's Day 2 of my Lyrical Christmas Countdown.

Today's lyrics are from a song called "Our Lullaby," written and performed by MercyMe. It's from their brand new Christmas album, called MercyMe It's Christmas.

During this countdown, I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the bustle of my heart this Advent season.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Singer (Let There Be Light): Lyrical Christmas Countdown, Day 1

IMG_7930Welcome to my lyrical Christmas countdown! I'll be posting my favorite lyrics as a way to engage my soul and slow the hustle of my heart this Advent season.

Day 1 also reflects the theme for the day of my #sacredholidays Advent study: lights!

These lyrics are from a song called The Singer (Let There Be Light) written and performed by David Phelps.

“And let there be #joy and #echoes of laughter. And the singer sings on and still writes the song of the #redeemed. / Every time a soul receives that joyful #Christmas song, He rises from His throne and all #creation sings along.”


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