Looking Behind

  • December 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm in

As we count down the remaining hours of 2014, my mind is going in so many directions. Overall, this past year has been a really good one. It’s been a time of stretching a bit, moving out of my comfort zone, and yet knowing that God’s hand is on me, leading me in the way that I should go.

The biggest highlights of this year were starting my own editing business and doing more personal travel. I travel a lot for business but it was nice to have time to make a couple trips just to visit friends and family. I am amazed at how much God has blessed me but I am so thankful.

My editing has been going well. There have only been 3 or 4 weeks since I launched my website that I did not have a book to edit. For that, I truly praise God. I pray that I will continue to do a great job for the people who trust me to edit their manuscripts.

My health has struggled a bit this past year but it has been a reminder that, in my weakness, God is still strong. I only bailed out on two business trips which is not bad considering how much we were on the road this year. I am feeling better at present and am trusting God to continue to guide me and show me what to do to become completely well. He is able.

God continues to give me opportunities to encourage others too. This is very important to me. It’s amazing that I’m able to do so when I am not always encouraged myself but, in ministering to others, I am often ministered to. Interesting how that works that way.

It’s hard to remember everything that happened this year but, if I had to sum it up, everything that has happened has been a continual testimony to the faithfulness of God in spite of myself. I am so thankful that He does not give up on me. He has called me and He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in me.

If you have time, I would love to hear your highlights of 2014 or anything God has shown you this past year. Then join me tomorrow as I look ahead to the new year.

Don’t Forget to Be a Blessing

I realized the other night that I have been so focused on getting ready for Christmas and finishing up as much work as possible by year’s end that I haven’t really thought about those who will not have a happy Christmas this year. Usually I am more in tune with that fact but, for some reason, I hadn’t thought about it recently until God brought it to my mind through an email from a friend and a message that I listened to online. God, fill me with Your compassion.

I do not want this to be a depressing post. We have every reason in the world to celebrate and, as Christians, we should rejoice and praise God for His many blessings. Yet, as you do your last minute shopping and prepare to spend a joyful time with your family, take time to pray for those you know who don’t have much. Pray for those you don’t know if you feel led to do so. If you have been blessed financially, share some of your resources with others.

I remember years ago when we were very poor. A couple different years, God laid it upon people’s hearts to give us gifts. What a blessing that was! Not just because we received gifts but because people thought of us and were willing to bless us although they didn’t have to do so.

There are numerous ways to be a blessing to others. Maybe a phone call or a text to let a friend know you are thinking of them. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t have family. Invite them over for dinner or dessert.

Last but not least, keep remembering in prayer those who are being persecuted and killed for their faith in other countries. I hope I never have to go through what they are going through and yet my heart breaks for them. It may not be a cheerful thing to think about at this time of year but they don’t get a break just because it is Christmas.

CD Review: Song of Noel (Donna King)

I’ve heard the name Donna King for years but this is the first I have really heard her, and I must say I am impressed. This CD has a nice mix of new songs and old carols. She sings each song with feeling that matches the lyrics. I grew up listening to Barbara Streisand’s Christmas record, and this reminds me of that somewhat.

The CD begins with a hyped, soulful arrangement of Joy to the World.

The tempo slows way down for Little Altar Boy, a song about someone who is gone astray and is asking for prayer.

“So that earth could go to Heaven, Heaven Came to Earth.” A great way to say it.

Give Me This Night is a song from Mary’s perspective as she looked at her newborn child who would way too quickly become a man.

Donna put some jazz into My Favorite Things.

Zane and Donna wrote the title Song of Noel.

Everyone knows the classic Silent Night.

Christmas Instead talks about the things that crowd our minds and stress us out, causing some to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.

Donna’s vocal talents really show on Ave Maria and O Holy Night. The only thing that kept this from getting five stars was feeling like she went a bit overboard on showing off her vocals on this last song but, overall, this is a good CD and one I will probably listen to for many Christmases to come.

CD Review: Roots: Old & New (Cross Pointe)

Almost a year and a half ago, I was contacted by Bill Pitts of Cross Pointe, asking if I would be willing to listen to their latest CD and give my honest opinion. As you can see, it has taken me a long time to get around to writing the review; however, this does not mean that I did not like the CD. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it upon my first listen whereas it usually takes me a while to make an assessment. Maybe it’s due to the fact that this recording was produced by John Darin Rowsey but I still have flashbacks of New Journey when I listen to some of the songs on here.

Walk on the Water has a standard Southern Gospel feel but is my least favorite song on the CD. A basic message and too typical.

Changed is a descriptive experience of a person who was baptized and completely changed from the life they had lived. A mid-tempo song with great harmony and a great message. It is also well written.

All My Tears reminds me of a song the Forester Sisters would sing. It has a folksy feel to it.

Kenna West and John Darin Rowsey wrote the toe-tapping Time After Time.

Only Jesus is a beautiful song also written by Mr. Rowsey and Sue C. Smith.

I’m Still Standing was written by group member Bill Pitts. It talks about standing firm in spite of what life throws your way. With Jesus, you can stand!

I like their arrangement of Wayfaring Stranger. It starts out slow with just piano. Then picks up the tempo slightly but still keeps a pace which makes it easy to follow the story.

Two Coats is an old song but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone sing it. They sing the first verse and chorus very slow then increase the tempo to a toe-tapping one. Great arrangement.

I love the arrangement and harmony on It Changes Everything. “It changes everything to know You love me. And it makes me smile to think about Your grace. And then when I remember how You walked this road before me, that changes everything.” Amen!

Their version of I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now is a bit progressive but they did a good job.

Speak to Me is a song of prayer that God would speak and give me ears to hear.

Power in the Name of Jesus is one song specifically that reminds me of New Journey. Another song with great harmony and a great message. There really is power in the Name of Jesus regardless of what you’re facing.

What Will I Be Like?

I know a lot of people who are older, and I have begun making note of the character traits I would like to acquire and those I would like to discard before they become a part of my life. It seems many older people become bitter and unhappy in their later years while others are sweet and giving in spite of their pain. This latter group is the group I want to belong to but I realize they did not get this way overnight. I believe those who are a joy to be around in their golden years began to live a joyous life in their youth. Those who are bitter may have allowed roots to grow when they were younger, however, they were careful to keep it inside. As they got older and their mind began to go, what was in their heart came to the surface to where now they cannot let go of it.

That is a sober thought. It’s not enough to look good on the outside. What is in my heart? Is it full of love and kindness, or is it bitter and angry, holding grudges that are going to die when I do? Will I be a joy to care for when I’m old or will everyone be drawing straws to see who has to take care of me? Although this is a ways off in the future, I need to choose now what kind of person I will be. I need to get God’s Word firmly planted in my heart that it is what flows out of me when I can remember nothing else.

For those who are already elderly, it is never too late to change. If you have become old and grouchy, don’t excuse it because of your age. Think about how it is affecting those around you and begin to be a blessing. It may shock your friends and family but they will recover.

For you young people, don’t think you have 40 years to develop better habits and treat people better. Begin now. It may seem like you have your whole life ahead of you but those years will go by faster than you think.

To God Be the Glory

How can I say thanks for the things You’ve done for me? Things so undeserved, yet You gave to prove Your love for me. The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee.

I grew up listening to this song written by Andrae Crouch a few decades ago. Today, I am focusing on those words and the depth of the gratitude expressed for all the things that God has done. It amazes me that God continues to pour out His blessings on me but I am so grateful.

This week has been rough and yet, through it all, God continues to give grace and remind me that He is here. He loves me and has a plan whether I see that plan or not. He came to earth so that we might have abundant life. If I focus on the negative instead of on His goodness, I am not living that life that He desires me to have. This would be a slap in my Savior’s face.

I have been really looking forward to this season, and I know that Satan would like nothing better than to steal my joy. I am so thankful that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! This is my story and this is my song. I’m praising my Savior all the day long. I hope that you are too.

CD Review: Voice in the Desert (The Freemans)

The latest CD from The Freemans has been out for a while but, unfortunately, I am just now getting around to writing the review.

Chris Freeman sings the title song, Voice in the Desert. Somebody does need to be a voice in the desert, to make a way for the Lord.

Darrell sings That Kind of Love, a story about a drunk who has a hard time understanding how someone could know him and yet still love him. The conclusion is we’ll never understand that kind of love.

Ole Trespasser tells Satan to “get out of this place.”

The Last Time I Looked, the gravestone is still rolled away.” Can I get an Amen?

I may not always like Where I’ve Been but, often, I can look back and see that “it’s made me a better man” (or woman as the case may be). ;)

Caylon and Misty sing the old spiritual, Water Grave.

“So carry your cross, no matter how hard it’s been. The strength that you’ve lost will help you depend on Him. Keep climbing that hill. Don’t lay your cross down. There’s only one you so what would God do with an Unwanted Crown?” Jesus bore His cross for you; now it’s your turn. Don’t give up.

Chris sings John the Revelator.

Next, the tempo mellows for Meanwhile Back at the Cross. Satan was gloating but he did not notice everything that was happening at the Cross.

There is a concept video for Lead Me Home on YouTube. Very well done.

God Lifts the Needy

“[The LORD] raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor”  ~ 1 Samuel 2:8.

As I read this prayer of Hannah this morning, I thought how God did this very thing for me. At times, growing up, we were very poor. There were some winters we couldn’t afford heat, and at least once, we were homeless for a time.  During those days, we attended church occasionally but the extent of my prayers were for God to get us out of trouble or protect us, and I never read my Bible … at least not regularly. I am thankful that God looked down and saw how needy we were, and He decided that He could use me anyway.

I was a teenager when my mom truly came to know the Lord. Although I grew up in church, we didn’t really have relationship with God prior to that time. After that, I could not deny the peace that filled Mom, such as I had never seen in her before. Our lives radically changed and, although at the time, I wasn’t sure I liked the changes, they ended up being for the better, and God continued to call out to me until I decided to follow Him as well. That was over 20 years ago now, and I can truly say that I don’t regret one mile I’ve traveled for the Lord. This world is getting scarier every day and yet I still hope God gives me many more years to serve Him. When He has finished using me, I will be very happy to go Home.

I’ve never sat with princes but I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with a number of Christian leaders, and I have found that they are just people like you and me. They still have trials and struggles, joys and heartaches. They may be better known than you and me but they are merely people who have said “Yes” to Jesus. A willing heart is what He is searching for. You don’t need to be smart, well versed, good looking, or anything else. If you are willing to surrender your whole life to the Lord, He can and will use you. You may not see your rewards on earth but Revelation 2:10 tells us that, if we are faithful to the end, we will receive the crown of life.

If you are needy today, rest assured that God has not forgotten you. He hears your cries. Our timing is not His timing, and the things we think we need are not always what we do, in fact, need but He will not forsake you.

If you are like me and you remember a time when you were needy and God rescued you, take time to thank Him again. I can’t praise Him enough for His faithfulness. All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Him. To God be the glory!

The Sacrifice of Praise

I grew up singing “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to think about what that means. Yesterday, I was thinking again about this phrase. The longer I walk with the Lord, I find it easy to praise Him but there are some who may find it harder to praise God as they walk through very trying circumstances. This is when praise becomes a true sacrifice.

First Thessalonians 5:16 and 18 tells us to “Rejoice evermore. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Easier said than done sometimes but it is one thing that God requires of His children. Anyone can praise God when things are going well. It’s during the times of heartbreak and tragedy that our faith is tested and we have to choose if we are going to curse God or praise Him.

I hope you will choose the sacrifice of praise. As difficult as it can be at times, you will find strength like you have never before experienced. Listen closely and you will hear the Father whisper, “Fear not, My child. I love you and am with you through even the most difficult times. You do not have to bear your burden alone. Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you.”

No matter what life is bringing you right now, take time this week to count your blessings. There is always something to be thankful for and, most of the time, our blessings are many. We just need to look at life differently than the world does.

Put Christ First

I am making a conscious effort to tune in to my Savior’s voice and put Him above everyone and everything else. Although a basic Christian concept, it is so easy to let other things crowd in and take priority but this is something I can’t afford. I need Him more than ever. I have so much on my mind lately–decisions I’m trying to make, people I’m trying to be there for, things I’m trying to accomplish–but God’s Word says that, if I seek Him and His righteousness, everything else will fall into place (my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33).

Scripture also says that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so seek Him I must. I can’t point others to the Lord if I am not constantly drawing near Him myself. With His help, I will press on until I can wholeheartedly sing, “I’d rather have Jesus than ANYTHING this world affords today!”

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