“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26
Society says you are enough, dig deep, you are strong….but the fact is….I’m not. I’m not enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m not good enough. I’m weak and broken and I’ll never be enough. But Jesus is.
He is everything, He is my creator, redeemer, healer. He is the beginning, He is the end, He is everything in between. He is my hope, my only hope. He is so good and kind, and loves me more than I even know.
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17
I don’t have to be enough because Jesus is…
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3
This song was written, birthed (if you will) through heartache, pain and a beautiful realization that if everything falls apart – Jesus is enough. I’ve heard, we’ve all probably heard that phrase but until you come face to face with losing things most dear, being hurt beyond what you thought possible, and feeling very alone, abandoned even, then it becomes real….Jesus really is enough. This truth was and is a balm to my heart. I’m so grateful for my Savior, that He sees me, that He knows me and He loves me still.
“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13
The world seems to be getting darker and darker, many of us have lost loved ones, jobs, and more. But if we lose everything…Jesus will still be enough. Difficulty grows us in ways that good times never will. Embrace the hard and choose what’s better…Jesus.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” Philippians 3:8-9
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:4
Jesus Is By Christy Hoagland
Verse 1 When the world feels dark And the storms keep raging on Help me to remember, I’m not alone
Verse 2 When I can’t forget my pain When the hurt won’t dim or fade Remind me once again, Lord, You know my name
Chorus 1 I am known, I am chosen I am made with God’s own breath I am seen, I am loved I don’t have to be enough Jesus is
Verse 3 When I’ve lost my way When I want to just give up Bring me to my knees to choose You, the better thing
Verse 4 You are the God who sees me While everyone walks by (And) Lord I know You’re faithful and all I need
Chorus 2 I am known, I am chosen I am made with God’s own breath I am seen, I am loved I don’t have to be enough Jesus heals and He saves, Jesus is, He is my praise Oh, He was and He is, Jesus is, He is
Bridge He is Holy, Messiah, my Savior and my King He’s my hope, Redeemer, He is my Victory He is kindness and He’s goodness, the truth, He is the Life He is power, my freedom, He will satisfy Jesus is, He is, He is, He is
Chorus 3 I am known, I am chosen I am made with God’s own breath I am seen, I am loved I don’t have to be enough Jesus rules and He reigns, Jesus is, He is my praise Oh, He was and He is, Jesus is, He is Jesus is enough
“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?” Isaiah 43:19
Covid really changed up our lives and there were unexpected blessings, hardships, and now new things. But instead of dwelling on the heartaches of Covid and 2020 let’s look at God’s grace, mercy and great love for us. As the entire world was sat down and made to be still, God began speaking to us and showing us what was missing. In our busyness we were not plugged in to our family as much as we needed to be, work (the cabinet shop) was difficult to keep up with and we were on the go so much that even our preparation for ministry suffered. Fortunately, God can use anybody and He used us even in our weakest, exhausted and most unprepared states for His Glory and His Kingdom. I wouldn’t trade the past few years of prison ministry for anything, it was one of the most precious and amazing times of our lives and I am so thankful I got to be a part of it.
Change is hard and when things come to a halt it is sometimes hard to see what the next step may be. It’s at these times that obedience is key and faith is held. If I believe God, if I trust God is who He says He is and that His Word is true then I don’t have anything to worry about, it’s gonna be okay. His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. “Be still and know”…remember who He is!
God is not surprised by anything, and He has a beautiful plan for His children. This new season, the new thing(s) He is doing is exciting. We are trying to be more intentional with our kids, granddaughter, our family and God is opening so many doors to serve Him with our callings. James is filling in at our home church now and then and pulpit supply preaching in upcoming months. I have been asked to lead worship in so many places and am so blessed to walk through each open door of opportunity. I recently started a small business doing graphic design to make some extra income, I get to lead a Worship Camp for high schoolers this Summer, I’ve gotten to have quality granddaughter time, and so much more.
God wants our willingness and obedience to say yes to His plans and no to ours. It may not always look like what we think it will or wish it would but you can count on His plan being better than anything we try to hold on to or force. Aren’t you thankful for an almighty God that is control of everything? I sure am.
“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” Psalm 128:1
Undressed to Impress….wait, what? Isn’t the saying Dressed to Impress? What basically means is dress to make a statement, to leave a lasting impression on someone or a group of people – how we appear to others is sooo important. We want people to notice us, to be impressed with us, to think we have it going on or have it all together. And if we’re honest, none of us do! Can I say that again for the people in the back? NONE OF US HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER! And you know what? That’s ok!
Our culture is so full of “look at me”, “look at my accomplishments”, “look what’s going on in my life”. Selfie overload, filters and more but if we peeled off the “clothes”, the mask, if you will, I think we’d find we all look a lot alike – messed up, hurting, dealing with life. I’m reminded of a song I used to sing, a Natalie Grant song called “The Real Me” with lyrics stating – But You see the real me, hiding in my skin, broken from within, unveil me, completely, I’m loosening my grasp, there’s no need to mask my frailty, ‘cuz You see the real me. It’s time we were unveiled – undressed.
A few weeks ago at church I went to the altar to pray but after and even a Sunday or two before, I was prompted in my heart to ask these people, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray for me. So, at the end of service I opened up and shared my struggles and asked them to pray for me. Why is this so difficult? I need help, in overcoming my issues, my sin…I need encouragement, I need lifted up in prayer, we all do. But yet, we don’t ask. We don’t want people to know our “stuff”, we are afraid. We are afraid of judgment, of not “looking like we think we should”, of admitting we aren’t perfect. We would rather walk around in our brokenness than let even one person know the truth about us, that we are a sinner like everybody else or struggling with anything at all. Looking at it that way makes it sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? But it’s what we do, it’s what I do, what I’ve done.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16 CSB
Do you want to be healed? Yes! I do! But…I don’t want to tell my junk, people have hurt me, they’ve shared my secrets, they’ve betrayed my trust so…I’ll just hold onto it. Or, I can handle this, I’m doing better now, no one will understand, they won’t look at me the same. This is the dialogue I have frequently let play out and it has held me captive. James 5:16 gives us the antidote, confess… I don’t believe this means tell all your drama and business on social media, that’s another issue all together. Confess to a brother or sister in Christ, an accountability partner, a trusted friend. I shared with my small church congregation because I trust them and love them and know that they will indeed pray for me. These (righteous persons) are the people James is telling us to confess to, their prayers are powerful!
Take action – get up, confess. In John 5, Jesus sees a disabled man at the pool of Bethesda where people come to be healed. “One man was there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well?” Verses 5-6. The ESV says “Do you want to be healed?” The man makes excuses but Jesus says “get up!” We make a lot of excuses and stay in our pit, in our pain, for way too long instead of getting up, instead of reaching for the Savior, instead of simply saying “I need help”. This is just what the enemy wants….for us to stay down. Stagnant, sad, lonely.
One of my favorite authors, Jennie Allen, talks about going to counseling, yet many of us believe if we sought help by way of a therapist, counselor, etc then there must be something wrong with us, shame seems to be attached to getting professional help. We live in a fallen world, we get hurt, we suffer, we get attacked by the enemy, spiritual warfare is a real thing, the list could go on and on. Maybe we just need told that it’s ok to get help, maybe we need to be reminded that we have a Savior who loves us and wants to rescue us. Maybe today is a good day to get up and get undressed, let go of having to look perfect or normal and seek healing. Whether that’s a friend, pastor, church family, or counselor. I recommend getting undressed – call out to Jesus, confess to a trusted friend, and schedule a meeting with a counselor. Do you want to get well?
It was a night like this…ok, it’s not night time but lean in and I will tell you a story.
One year ago today… It was a night like tonight may be, cold and dark. We had just left the prison in the West Bottoms of Kansas City. We pulled in to a dimly lit, shady looking gas station not far away and parked next to a truck that was idling near the pumps under the lights. We stepped out of our vehicle as did she. She was holding a tiny, trembling puppy dog named Timmy. You read that right, Timmy, oy. James had already made up his mind that he wanted to name him Buddy (cuz he was gonna be his buddy, by golly) and because he didn’t want to be out somewhere calling for a Timmy, lol. I wanted to name him Mr. T but I lost that battle. I digress.
We weren’t expecting him to be so small but decided we would take him home anyway. Earlier in the day we stopped at PetSmart and purchased a dog bed, James thought we should’ve maybe gotten a bigger one but…lol, it’s a good thing we didn’t!
This picture is right after we picked him up, his ribs and hip bones were sticking out and he was shaking like crazy.
He sat on my lap for the ride home, whimpering and occasionally licking my hand which I saw as a good sign. We pulled into another gas station down the road and let him out to go potty. To my pleasant surprise, he went! We got home and went to bed, since we didn’t have a crate for him yet we sat him at the end of our bed and turned out the lights. A pitiful little howl came from his doggy lips, it really was sad. I reached down and petted him for a minute and he stopped and he has never howled since. I always say this is why he became so attached to me, I comforted him in his darkest hour, ha.
He followed me everywhere and still does most of the time. There was a time when he wouldn’t eat unless I was in the room, he’s getting better about that, probably because he gets hungry 🙂
He loves his toys, it is comical. If we say “wanna go bye bye”, he will run and get a toy and wait by the door. He doesn’t like baths, he’s scared of other dogs and acts like he can take them (bad idea) and he doesn’t like the hard treats from the bank.
Buddy meets Faye. She thought he ought to be licking her but he just isn’t a licker.
He sleeps funny and does silly things, he makes me laugh. And…he likes the cat.
One year with this little guy and hopefully, many many more.
Meet Buddy, today is his birthday, he’s the big 2! He enjoys doggie treats, rides in the car and the boat, snuggling, short games of fetch, and walks at Drake Harbor in Warsaw.
James acquired Buddy last February (February 4th), he had been looking for a dog for himself….a buddy, if you will, and found this sweet miniature schnauzer on a Facebook rehoming page. An elderly lady got him from a breeder but later she had to go to a nursing home and from there he went to people who didn’t care for him. We don’t know exactly what happened to him but he was very timid and scared for quite a while after we took him in, he still is at times. He wouldn’t look James in the eye for the first 3 weeks, he was very skinny (about 8lbs) and followed me everywhere. Needless to say, he became “my dog”. It was bizarre, he would stare at me like a new born baby, he was smitten lol, and, if I’m honest, so was I. I haven’t really ever been a dog person, not in the way that those radical dog lovers are, you know, those fur moms and dads calling their pets their fur babies and kids. I always thought that was a bit much but….ahem, I started acting like one of “those people”…talking about him all the time, showing pictures, you name it, lol.
He really is such a sweet dog, so gentle and loving and is so patient with our granddaughter. She is really good with him but has accidentally bonked him, she plays “this little piggy went to market” on his toes and takes over his domain (gets in his dog bed with him) and he just lets her have her way. He barks at everyone who walks in the door except for me and her 🙂
Buddy has come a long way with people, it just may take him a little while to warm up to them. He now likes James and will jump in his lap for scratching and cuddles. He has really taken to James’ mom, she dog sits when we need to go somewhere and she loves it, I think he has converted her to a dog person too. Everyone thinks he is handsome with his baby blue eyes and black and white fur. But his sweet disposition is his greatest attribute.
Now, I’m not one of those “all dogs go to heaven” people but I do love this little guy and believe the God placed him in my life when I needed someone (a dog of all things) to love me unconditionally. Oh, my darling husband and bestie, Jamie, are so wonderful and supportive and I am so grateful for them. But Buddy was and is a precious reminder of God’s love for me. The end of 2019 and the year of 2020 was probably one of the most difficult I’ve had to endure. And when there seemed like there was no consoling me, Buddy was there to lay in my lap, to hug on and with no judgment, criticism, or even words of wisdom (ha!). I guess that’s one of the nice things about dogs, no lectures, or “suck it up, buttercup”… just a listening ear (or maybe they’re not but they don’t seem to care what you’re saying).
So, I’ve become a full-fledged Dog Mom, complete with hat and shirt, thanks to my bff, and I don’t mind.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
James 1:17 CSB
I am thankful for a God who sees me and gives me even the sweetest little glimpse of His love for me. It may seem silly to some but I bet if you looked, you could see a gift from the Lord in your life that might seem trivial to others. He is good and He loves us so.
*This Little Piggy – Author unknown.
In 1728, the first line of the rhyme appeared in a medley called “The Nurses Song”. The first known full version was recorded in The Famous Tommy Thumb’s Little Story-Book, published in London about 1760.
“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live.” Psalm 104:33
“My heart is confident, God; I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being.” Psalm 108:1
“My tongue sings about your promise, for all your commands are righteous.” Psalm 119:172
“I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 146:2
“Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.” Psalm 147:1
“Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.” Psalm 149:1
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and they will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1
“Sing the Glory of His Name; give to Him glorious praise!” Psalm 66:2
“My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you, my soul also, which you have redeemed.” Psalm 71:23
“My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praises.” Psalm 37:7
“For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.” Psalm 18:49
“I will sing to the Lord because he has treated me generously.” Psalm 13:6
“Then my head will be high above my enemies around me; I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord.” Psalm 27:6
“I will praise God’s name with song and exalt him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30
“I will sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever; I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations with my mouth.” Psalm 89:1
“Therefore I will give thanks to you among the nations, Lord; I will sing praises about your name.” 2 Samuel 22:50
“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” Psalm 47:6
One of my first songs “Sing for the King” has the scripture from Psalm 47:6. He is the reason I sing.
There are so many scriptures about singing about and to the Lord, even more than the ones listed above and this should cause our hearts to sing because He is so worthy of our praise, of us lifting our voices to Him! There is never an occasion that does not constitute His worthiness of praise and adoration, even in the most difficult of circumstances, even in crazy 2020. Things have definitely changed all around us, especially in my life but through it all, I still will sing.
I will sing in the new places He has given me – my sweet little church, in parks, festivals, revivals, youth rallies, in Africa soon; I will sing to and with my precious granddaughter, I will sing when my heart is breaking and when my heart is joyful…I will sing. Even when my life, the path, directions, and situations change – I know I am called to sing for Him, to sing for the King of Kings. I have included two blog posts from my old blog (crazychristianchic.blogspot.com) regarding this calling on my life to sing. It is good to look back and see how God has molded me and continues to mold me into the person He has called me to be, how He has grown my gifts to be used for Him and His Kingdom and how He is using me for His Glory.
Use me Lord, for Your Kingdom and Glory. I will sing for You.
I know my calling….to sing for my King. Let’s go back a few years…
My musical interests revolved around playing the piano and the saxophone. I begged my parents for piano lessons when I was in 6th grade and they said yes. My lessons were $4 a week and I walked to them every week for a year and a half. We moved after my 7th grade year and had to leave my piano and my lessons behind. I played the saxophone from 7th grade on and I loved it. Even when I started singing in high school the saxophone was my first love.
I didn’t begin singing until I was around 15 years old, I hadn’t thought about singing. I loved my saxophone, remember? A year or so after “the move”, we began attending a little country church…they had a youth choir. They asked my sister and I if we would like to join and we said why not. My sister sang in glee club at our former school but I had only been interested in playing instruments. Much to my surprise and everyone else’s, I was a decent singer, who knew? And…I wasn’t too shy to sing in front of people, another who knew? The first solo I ever sang at my church was by Petra “The Prayer”, I would sing with tapes or CDs or acapella if need be. I sang a duet with a friend at youth church camp the Summer after my freshman year, I was in the high school choirs my Junior and Senior year, I sang at revivals at various churches, in people’s living rooms, I would sing whenever anyone asked, anytime, anywhere.
This continued through my adult life, singing in my college show choir, singing at church, cantatas, special events in my or other communities, youth conferences, stupid talent shows…sing, sing, sing. In 2003, I recorded a “demo” CD with 6 songs to tracks, I never really did much with it but was grateful for the opportunity and experience to make it. Once in a while someone asks me about a CD and I get a little embarrassed, I don’t know…I really don’t think of myself as a big deal and don’t want to either, even typing this makes me a little uncomfortable because all this is not about me, it’s all about my Jesus and the journey He has led me through.
I did a few concerts at various churches after that which was a great learning experience as well. And eventually I ended up on a worship team at my church…
All the events leading up to now are important and played a role in my life but the last couple of years have been a whirlwind of not only musical growth but more importantly spiritual growth. In the Fall of 2010, I began singing on the worship team at my church, I led a few of the songs for Sunday morning worship and gained some knowledge on what it was like to sing with a live band instead of CDs or the typical church piano. Then in 2013, due to various circumstances, there was a need for an interim Worship leader and I seized the opportunity. It was also at this point that I began singing on Monday nights as well at our Celebrate Recovery meetings, another blessed experience and opportunity. The CR worship leader was a big support and contributed about as much as I did to the Sunday morning process. I can’t say that I was great at it because I wasn’t but it was an eye opening experience and I am thankful for every minute of it. It taught me a lot about all the work that goes in behind the scenes that nobody sees or notices on Sunday mornings and what kind of leader I was and need to be. Another first during this time…Prison Concerts, the CR worship team took their first concert to prison, it was awesome and we were hooked. Along with that…I began playing the keyboard, I played for a couple songs during the prison concert and a couple times at CR and the very last Sunday morning that I led the music. I was not very good, I just chorded mostly but it put me on a path to things I had only dreamed of.
Five months later we hired a worship pastor, he was wise and gracious and an incredible leader, musically and spiritually. He has taught me a lot about music and worship and has been continually guiding and teaching me to be a better worship leader. I now play keys most Sunday mornings and every Monday night and the craziest part…I’m singing too. That has always been a challenge for me, to sing and play at the same time and I’m still working on it, but I can play for myself and have on several occasions now for revivals or our worship services and the occasional funeral. But the most important life-changing part is the work God has done in my heart. I have a renewed sense of awe and wonder about Him, He has given me a freedom to worship Him like I never had before…what an amazing King I serve. I am humbled by His majesty, undeserving of His mercy and grace, and completely surrounded by His love and presence every day. And I can’t wait to see what’s next…
The Lord placed music in my heart and life when I was a child. I remember singing songs to Jesus at night as a little girl, I don’t recall having a good voice or a bad one…it didn’t matter, I just sang. I begged my parents for piano lessons in 6th grade, I played the saxophone in jr high and eventually started singing in high school (which was ironically the biggest surprise to me and everyone around me). God gave me the gift of music, even more so…being decent at it. I realized early on that this was indeed a gift from Him alone and I vowed always to use it for Him and for His glory. I jumped at every opportunity presented to me to sing, be it the national anthem at various events/causes, a church special, a school assembly, funerals, weddings, so many occasions…all for Jesus. And yes, I sang about Jesus at school assemblies, God makes those things happen, ya know. I’ve been singing for over 26 years now, mostly in church which I love! I love singing and worshiping with God’s people, my sweet church family. I have been content in this for a long time but just a few short years ago felt God prompting me to more, to step out and share Jesus through song with more people, in more places. And I said yes… God is equipping me to progress as a worship leader and is opening doors for me to use this precious calling. I am humbled and honored to serve Him in this way. I GET to lead others in worshiping Jesus, in singing praises to Him…sometimes in a room full of boisterous men singing at the top of their lungs, tears streaming down their faces, running to the altar…and other times stillness, quiet, reverent singing, joy filled faces, or no words. What a privilege. I am content in this…and why shouldn’t I be?
God is calling me to more, I’m writing songs, leading worship at conferences, conventions, and more. I have the opportunity to record my first original album and I know I’m supposed to do it. Honestly, I could lead my songs in prisons and other venues and not think another thing about it. But I know I’m called to this too, men in prison, others at other events have asked for my songs and I have nothing to give them and it breaks my heart. I will not squander this gift of songwriting and singing, if my meager attempt at songwriting brings others into a greater understanding of who Jesus is then I have to share it. I do not desire a big stage, a record deal, a music career…I just want to be obedient to my calling to lead others in the worship of the Lord through song.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
A new song, a free gift, a sweet reminder… God’s grace.
God’s grace is simply too much for us to comprehend. First of all, God saved us by His grace through faith in Him. He sent Jesus to die for our us, our failures, our wrongs…our sin. It overwhelms me when I think about it. This perfect, holy Jesus came to earth to live a human life and sacrifice Himself for us, for me. This beautiful sacrifice not only covers up my sin and shame but it puts the blame on Himself, Jesus.
Grace – unmerited favor, unearned, perhaps something we haven’t even asked for.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2
God has given me so much grace, grace when He saved me, grace when I mess up, grace in the smallest of things and in amazingly big ways.
This song has been swirling around in my heart and head for quite a while. My best friend, Jamie and I held a women’s retreat last Fall called “Broken and Poured Out” and during the planning stages I was continually reminded of God’s grace. We come to Jesus broken and in His grace He mends us, equips us, and pours us out to be used for His Glory. I started jotting lyrics and ideas down during this time last Summer (June 2019), I sang some melodies and lyrics into my phone in October 2019 and then once in a while would write something else down. Over the course of the next several months heartaches and hardships occurred, the most difficult being our soon to be granddaughter leaving this earth for heaven. But I was reminded of God’s grace and how beautiful it is. Through every difficulty He is there, His peace, love and grace washing over me, reminding me I am His, that He has me, and that I can rest in Him.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
I sat down to write this song on July 13, 2020 and simply started playing and singing – words flowing from somewhere inside me and it became almost a prayer. A prayer some or all of us have prayed or will pray.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
The Word tells us that we can draw near to the throne of grace and He will help us in our time of need. How beautiful is that? And it is continual.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I willboast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Titus 2:11
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
The Beauty of Your Grace
Verse 1 Here I am again Wondering how this ends I need a friend I’m on my knees, asking You Please, oh please Seeking Your face A touch of Your grace
PreChorus God I know You can, help me I Need Your hand Reach down for me Reach down for me, (oh please)
Chorus 1 The beauty of Your grace is Even when I fail it covers my shame And takes all the blame The beauty of Your grace is Even when I’m wrong it’s never too long To see I belong to You
Verse 2 You understand I’m broken My heart’s words unspoken Jesus, You see me I’m on my knees, begging You Please, oh please Humbly I plead Pour out Your peace (on me)
Chorus 2 The beauty of Your grace is You choose me as Your own, I’m never alone Or too far gone The beauty of Your grace is It restores, redeems and chases my soul Secures all my hope
(Tag) Verse 3 Draw me near to Your throne, (where I’m) Justified by grace alone
“Let your light shine before others.” Matthew 5:16
The writing below is from an offender who was at Algoa Correctional Center, he read this to the congregation one Friday night at the end of one of our services last August. As I listened to him speak I was inspired to write “Shine”. I opened the word and searched for scriptures that talk about us shining for Jesus, that talk about Jesus being the light and being the light in us…there are a lot!
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
“I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:19-21
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:47-48
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15
“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5
So many powerful scriptures that point us to Jesus, His light, and the call to SHINE. Last October (2019) we took one of our beloved trips to Branson and while James fished I sat down and wrote this song. After we were home a couple of days I added ‘This Little Light of Mine’ which is so fun. Every time I introduce this song and get to ‘this little light of mine’ a smile lights up faces and they sing a little louder. When I lead this in prison the bridge becomes a battle cry, “Get on your feet, get in the fight. Go be the light and testify!”…they get it, it’s a beautiful thing.
Read this man’s words and heed God’s Word to shine the light of Jesus everyday, everywhere.
by Offender S.
As Christians are we walking the walk or only talking the talk? I’ve read somewhere that lighthouses blow no horns, they only shine. Are we shining? James 1:22 tells us to be doers of the Word, not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. Also in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Our lights are to shine. We are to share our knowledge and wisdom with our fellow men and women… to share Jesus Christ with all. He commands us in Matthew 28:20 to teach everyone everywhere all things He has commanded us. He also assures us that we won’t be alone on this mission. We have one another and Jesus promises that He will be with us, even to the end of the world. He’s with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, (The Resident Truth Teacher), by whom we are sealed, anointed, and equipped for good works.
You know, I often pray for the salvation of those I love and care for… for everyone honestly. Then I sit back and wait for God to do all the work. Well, that wasn’t the deal… it wasn’t Jesus’ instructions. Church, I believe it’s a dangerous thing when our Christianity looks nothing like Jesus. He did more than just pray for people. He taught, He served, He loved, and ultimately, He sacrificed. I am convinced today that we have to be the answers to our own prayers for others. By serving, loving, sacrificing, etc. We have to share Jesus with others. We have to permit Him to shine in us and through us. We must sow seeds of hope. As children of God it’s our duty, and should be our heart’s desire to see all people experience salvation, redemption, and His forgiveness. FREEDOM! Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Are we willing to sow today what we want to see manifest tomorrow? I feel an urgency to share God’s love with everyone. The least we can do is share and teach what we’ve experienced, what we believe. I’ll not stay here dead… stagnant if you will, while He is risen! We must be obedient to our Lord, let our lights shine in this dark place, this dark world. Not just by ministering to others, but by our behavior, by our character, by our example of who we are in Jesus. There’s no substitute to abiding in Jesus. We must do what He did… be an extension of Him. Be His ambassadors. He is the star of this story and He deserves to have all our lights shine on Him, and so does all His lost sheep.
Guys, I feel like I’ve done way too much talking in my life and not enough walking… not enough shining. I’m convicted and ashamed by my failures. I’m not truly Jesus’ disciple if I only believe yet not share what I believe. Believing in Him has changed my life, but sharing my belief and my faith will change the world – one life at a time. So let’s Shine! Let’s let God stretch us until we are fit for His use. Our greatness isn’t in our comfort zone. If “it” doesn’t challenge us, “it” doesn’t change us. And we cannot lose sight of what’s eternal in our attempts to improve what’s temporary. Again, we aren’t His disciples until we are willing to shine, not just talk. God cannot bless who I pretend to be. There must also be some doing. My identity should be inseparable from my behavior. There cannot be 2 “Me”s. After all, I must be 100% in my service because it’s not about me, it’s about the God who saved me… who saved us all.
First Peter 2:12 says that “whereas we may be spoken evil of, that they may by our good works, which they shall behold, glorify God.” And also Hebrews 10:24 says for us to “consider one another to provoke one another unto love and to good works.” Finally, Jesus tells us in John 13:15 that “He has given us an example, and that we are to do as He has done.”
So please, let’s all take this journey together as a community, a family. To minister, to serve, to sacrifice, and most importantly, to love so greatly, so radically that our lights blind all the evil in this place and this world. Remember Matthew 5:14-16? What if that entire hill became one magnificent city of lights??? This journey is the destination. This process is the goal. I believe that our thoughts define our reality, and I think we can shine so brightly that Heaven can see us way down here. I love you guys!
God Bless You! – S.
Verse 1 Jesus, our light and salvation Calls us to share with the nations Who He is Verse 2 His Spirit lights up the darkness No shadow can overtake us Be His Light Chorus Shine, so others can see Him Shine, so they may believe in Shine, your life is a light For Jesus Shine, so others can know Him Shine, so they may behold Him Shine, your life can show them Jesus Verse 3 This world is fading away fast Blinded by things that just won’t last Share His Light Verse 4 Sometimes we do too much talking Without enough of the walking Be His Light Bridge Arise, shine, for the light has come God made a Way through His Only Son So get on your feet, get in the fight Go be the light and testify! Tag This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine Oh, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'” Matthew 16:24-25
I wrote this song in April 2019, it is my testimony song. As part of our prison ministry team each of us shares our testimony around our physical birthdays (Johnny, of course, shares his a lot more), I was sharing at Boonville Correctional Center and I said I just had to give up and give in to Jesus. And I immediately said “that would make a great song” 🙂 I started writing the same day I wrote ‘This Jesus’ but something wasn’t quite right so I laid it aside until the next day. Sometimes in song writing everything starts to sound the same or like something else you’ve written. When I picked this back up to finish it I was pleased with the result, it is a fun, upbeat song.
“Peter began to say to him, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.'” Mark 10:28
My story – I grew up, off and on, in church. I knew all the right answers, I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for me but I didn’t have that peace that surpasses all understanding. I remember hearing about someone being “saved” around the age of 12, maybe? I may have heard that before but at this particular time it really stood out to me. I prayed that night when I went to bed for Jesus to save me and I would look back at that time and claim it as my salvation experience many times in the future even though I never told one single person about it. And you know what, I don’t even know for sure if that was my point of being reborn but I do know this…Jesus was pursing me and there were times I would run to Him and times I would push Him away. A couple/few years later we had moved and were attending a little country church, the pastor came to our home and talked to my mom and the next thing I know my sister, myself, and my brother were getting baptized. Then I went to church camp and rededicated my life to Jesus. And for the next 13 years I would rededicate my life to Jesus several times over and would secretly struggle with doubt and torment over my salvation. I would see occasions in my life where it is clear I was not following Jesus and at other moments that seemed how did I make those kind of choices without faith in Him. Over and over I would be prompted to make things right, and I so wanted peace, I so wanted to be sure that I belonged to Jesus and that I would live in eternity with Him. But I would consistently listen to the lies of the enemy or do the “self-talk” and continue living unsure of everything. I would wake in the middle of the night crying, scared that if I died I would go to hell and begging God to save me. Then one day… I was standing at my kitchen sink, again doing the self-talk “you’re ok, you did that a long time ago, what would people think” thing and I said out loud “ok, Lord, I give up”, “whatever you want me to do Lord”. I needed to surrender, to declare in front of everyone who thought I was a follower of Christ and surrender my life to Jesus. A Sunday morning shortly following this encounter I ran to the altar after the sermon, I can’t even tell you what the message was about but the first chord on that piano and I was giving my life to the Lord. And you know what? I got that peace, I got free from that doubt that was crushing me. Hallelujah! Jesus saves! I got baptized (again) in that little country church a short time later.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
My greatest sin was pride and I almost let that pride send me to hell. Some people think I was saved all along, I really don’t know but I do now and that’s what matters. I remember hearing those sermons when the preacher would say “do you know that you know” and I didn’t know! If that’s you, if you are struggling with doubt or fear or you just don’t know if you are His…all it takes is surrender. This isn’t about walking and aisle, saying the right words or doing something a certain way. Christ has already done the work on the cross to set you free, to save you from your sins – you just have to surrender.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Luke 18:22
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Below are the lyrics and a video from a rehearsal last year. I am so looking forward to recording this and putting on the next album.
Verse 1 Are you running and fleeing, trying to hide Not knowing that His peace is on the other side Of surrender
Verse 2 Are you searching for meaning, a way to get free Wondering and fearing, what will they think of me Just surrender
Chorus Just give up, give in Lay down your pride and let Him in You can trust in Him and win with Jesus (repeat)
Verse 3 Can you hear Him, He’s calling, to you once more This Jesus is greater, just walk through the door Of surrender
Bridge Are you bound by sin and your chains? Squandering His great grace? Satisfied with your pain, today? Are you trying not to fall apart? Ashamed you’ve fallen so far? Longing to give Him your heart, but how? Oh surrender, just surrender
I have issues…I have lots and lots of books, I read lots of books but I buy lots of “oooo, that sounds so good” books. I am creating this Book Club to ‘in-a-way’ force myself to read the books I own before I purchase any more. Ahem, sure… okay, okay, I will probably buy more but I do need to read the ones I already have and what better way than with others who love to read. The majority of the books I have are nonfiction – christian books that inspire, encourage, teach, and help us grow closer to Jesus. There will occasionally be a fiction book offered, currently there is one on the Book Club page by Francine Rivers. There are 9 books on the Book Club page, the page will continually be updated once a book is completed. Maybe you already have some of the first nine books listed and haven’t read them yourself or perhaps you’ve always wanted to read ______________ but just haven’t made the time. Feel free to read all the books, a few, or even just one. Check out the Book Club page and read about each title, they are all unique. Most books will be allotted one month to read and then we will come together for discussion either in person or via Zoom.
There are links to Amazon for purchasing books on each book’s page and one book is even FREE on its website, but please purchase where you choose. If you would like to join in or learn more click here > Book Club! The first book starts July 1st!