Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

I am currently enjoying Lisa Harper’s latest Bible study, Malachi: A Love that Never Lets Go.  Each week she includes out-of-the-box exercises to help us implement what we are learning.  This week’s assignment was to learn the origin of the old spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and then to rewrite it in our own “dialect” and from our own heart.  What a great exercise this was!

First, the origin: The spiritual was written by a man commonly known as Uncle Wallace, Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman.  He wrote it around 1840 and was inspired to do so by his home close to Oklahoma City and by the Red River, which reminded him of the Jordan River.  The prophet Elijah is closely associated with the Jordan River, the location where a chariot and horses of fire appeared between him and his successor Elisha, and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.  (Numerous non-scholarly sources believe the song contained hidden lyrics that pertain to the Underground Railroad that served as an escape route to freedom for slaves.)

Tradition has it that a Choctaw boarding school minister, Alexander Reid, overheard Willis singing the song and had him transcribe the words and music.  He then sent the song to the Fisk Jubilee Singers in Nashville, who popularized the song as they toured throughout the U.S. and Europe in the early 1900’s.  The rest, as they say, is history.  The Recording Industry Association of America added Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to its list of “Songs of the [20th]Century.”

Second, my rewrite:  It’s hard to rewrite the words to a song that is so beloved and so historic.  But it’s words bring a picture to my mind’s eye of a man struggling in this oft difficult world, longing for his Savior to bring down a chariot and whisk him away to the paradise of heaven.  I, too, sometimes get weary with the daily struggles of this life and even get a little impatient at times while waiting on the Lord’s return.

But, my friend, He is coming!  And He, Jesus Christ, is the only ticket for that sweet chariot ride to heaven!  No one else or no-thing else in this world will get you there.  Jesus came the first time to bring salvation; He’ll come the next time to bring judgment.  But before His judgment falls, He’ll take His children for the ride of their lives!

Do you have your Ticket?  If not, let’s talk.

 

 

Praise You Sweet Jesus Lord

Has anyone seen God lately?

It’s amazing to me how you can take a Bible study several times and it’s like a new study each time.  That’s the way Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has been for me.  I first took the study about 15 years ago.  Since then, I’ve taught it twice and am now taking it again. 

One morning I was doing my homework and read something that really struck me.

What our world often witnesses today is a devoted, committed Christian or church serving God.  But they are not seeing God.  They don’t see anything happening that can be explained only in terms of God’s activity.  Why?  Because we are not attempting anything that only God can do. (page 143)

Ouch!  The truth of that paragraph cut me all the way down to the quick!  No one was seeing God through me because I wasn’t attempting anything God-sized.  I’d been doing a lot of little good things for God, but I wasn’t asking Him to do anything God-sized through me.  (I walked around for days with a spiritual black eye from that one-two-truth punch!)Note pad - small

After I apologized to God for hiding Him from others, I asked, “Lord, what would You like to do through me?”  Almost immediately, God gave me a list of 5 Impossible Things.  I hurriedly wrote each item down, looked at the list, and exclaimed, “You must be kidding!  There’s no way! Well, that’s what I get for asking!” 

After reflecting on the list for a while and realizing that these 5 Impossible Things could only be done by a powerful God through a willing soul, I made one more request, “Please, Lord, open my spiritual eyes. Far too often I have asked for something and then gone about my day, forgetting what I had asked, blind to Your movement upon the request.  So please, Lord, keep these 5 Impossible Things fresh on my heart so that when You begin to move, I’ll see it and move with You; so that when You begin to supply what is needed, I’ll see it and use it for Your purpose; so that when You open the door of opportunity, I’ll see it and step right on through.”

My friend, let me tell you something: God did those 5 Impossible Things — and He did them in less than one month!  I even faltered on the 5th item, the biggest challenge, but you know what?  He did it for me!  Amazing!

I’d love to tell you what those things were but other people are involved and I need to respect their privacy.  Did they see God?  I have no idea, but I sure did.  And seeing Him move so clearly has given me a renewed sense of strength, a refreshed taste of faith, a restored heart of devotion.  Now, whenever I approach a hill that seems too high to climb or a valley that seems too low to cross, I’ll just remember those 5 Impossible Things and the All-Things-Are-Possible God who did them.  At the top of my spiritual lungs, I’ll sing with the Psalmist:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remenmber your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works

and consider all your mighty deeds.

Your ways, O God, are holy.

What god is so great as our God?

Psalm 77:11-13

Has anyone seen God lately — through you? 

Death: A Precious Thing?

I attended the funeral of a dear friend’s father yesterday. What a wonderful man he was! With a dry wit, an open wallet, and a gracious heart, he was a pleasure to know. While his family and friends will miss him terribly, we have great comfort in knowing where he is: in heaven with his Savior. 

As the pastor shared some humorous stories about the man, a psalm came into my mind:

Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his saints.

(Psalm 116:15)

Death precious? Yes, precious — precious, that is, for a saint, one who’s been set apart as holy by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  But how can death be “precious”?  Let’s think about it:

  • Death is the doorway home: the doorway to heaven, the saints’ eternal home.  Precious!
  • Death marks end of struggling and the beginning of really living. Precious!
  • Death is the ultimate spa treatment; it brings about a glorious  transformation from a dust-and-water body into a heavenly, perfect, incorruptable body!  Precious!
  • Death takes saints directly into the presence of the LORD where they shall remain forevermore. Precious! 
  • Death requires closure and that’s usually found at a funeral service where family and friends are often reunited (like I was with my friend whom I had not seen in 15+ years).  Precious!
  • Death brings the opportunity for restoration of broken relationships; old hurts and grievances can be forgiven and forgotten, or gulfs of space and time can be bridged. Precious!
  • Death also provides the perfect opportunity to share the gospel, to explain the gift of salvation and to issue an invitation for adoption into the LORD’s family and, thus, a “room” in His eternal home.  Precious!

Oh, the list could go on and on.  Perhaps you would like to add to my list. Please do so in the comment box below.

Yes, death is a precious thing when viewed from God’s perspective.  So, the next time you’re making a list of “precious” things, be radical and add “the death of a saint” to your list!  No doubt you’ll raise a few eyebrows but who knows? Your explanation may raise a lost soul from death to life!
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A Longing Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:10

 

It was 3 years and 3 months ago today.

My sister and I had traveled to Nashville, TN, to pitch an idea to a publisher about creating retreats-in-a-box, kits with everything a church needs to have an in-house retreat. Our retreat was entitled YOU-nique: Embracing God’s Design for You.  It’s purpose: to help believers realize that they were born ON purpose FOR a purpose so we need to live our lives WITH purpose.

On the morning of our meeting, my sister rose early and, thinking I was still asleep, took her Bible into the bathroom for a time of reading and meditation.  A few minutes later, she came out running, shaking a piece of paper, and screaming, “It’s here!  It’s here!”  After scaring me half to death and then calming down, she explained.

A few months earlier, Cyndi and her daughter had attended a Mother-Daughter Weekend event in Houston, TX, hosted by Mercy Ministries of America and the singing group Point of Grace.  They went to see Point of Grace; they returned talking about Mercy Ministries, a non-profit organization that helps young ladies overcome life-destroying habits, situations, or abuse (see post article “Mercy Has a Face,” dated 11-2-09).  That morning Cyndi had pulled out of her Bible a brochure on the ministry and realized Mercy Ministries’ (MM’s) corporate headquarters was based right there in Nashville, TN.  “We have to go and visit them!” So she called, set up an appointment, and got directions.

While meeting with the publisher, I shared with him my firm belief that, while women come in for a retreat, some type of ministry must flow out from it; therefore, each retreat needed to have a mission action project.  “Take, Mercy Ministries, for example,” I said.  “YOU-nique’s message tells us that we are God’s very own works of art, giving the learner a greater sense of self-worth.  And because MM deals with girls who have very low self-esteem that results in acting out in dangerous ways, then doing a project for MM would be a great mission project.”  The publisher liked our idea and promised to give it consideration.

We left the publishing house and headed out to find Mercy Ministries.  Though MM did not do tours on this particular day of the week, they listened to Cyndi’s heartfelt plea and relented.  We were blown away by all they do to help not only enrich lives but to literally save the lives of these beautiful young women.

Before leaving the campus, Cyndi and I looked at each other and said almost in unison, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come back here and lead these girls through the YOU-nique retreat?”  What an awesome dream!

Fast forward 3 years and 3 months.  Here we are again, my sister and I.  We are in Nashville, TN, scheduled to visit Mercy Ministries tomorrow.  Though the retreat-in-a-box idea did not become a reality, the study book YOU-nique: Embracing God’s Design for You did get published by another company!  And Cyndi and I are scheduled to lead 17 MM counselors and program directors through it tomorrow.  They will serve as a jury, so to speak, to decide if YOU-nique is something they could use for their small group counseling sessions in all their homes, both here in the US and abroad!

Cyndi and I had a dream over 3 years ago; we did nothing to bring it about.  God remembered our dream and He worked it out far better and far faster than we could have ever imagined.  By a miraculous chain of events that could have only been orchestrated by God Himself, we had the opportunity to meet Nancy Alcorn, the founder and president of Mercy Ministries.  Less than 3 weeks after meeting Nancy, here we are, only a few hours away from a “longing fulfilled.” 

This God of ours: isn’t He something?!praise

Not to us, O LORD, not to us

but to your name be the glory,

because of your love and faithfulness.

Pslam 115:1

The journey begins

“…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good

promises the LORD your God gave you has failed.

Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”   (Joshua 23:14)

 

About 12+ years ago, God began dealing with me about writing. I wanted no part of it. I enjoyed teaching my college Sunday School class and women’s Bible studies. Write? No time. No talent. No way. But God kept urging and I kept dodging.

As I sat in evening worship one night, something the pastor said prompted the argument with God again. In my mind I reviewed all the reasons why I could not do it and finally said — in my mind, of course buy CBD products “God, if this is really You telling me to do this — if it’s You and not my pride — then You’re going to have to make it as clear as the spoken word.”

At that very moment, my middle child who was 11-12 at the time, elbowed me. When I looked down at him, he whispered, “You need to write a Bible.” I said, “Keegan, we already have a Bible. God wrote it so we don’t need another one.”

He replied, “I mean a book. You need to write a book.” I held my finger to my mouth, indicating he needed to be quiet, looked back up, and then it hit me, “…as clear as the spoken word”! And thus the journey began.      

And then you know what God did? He up and moved us to South Carolina — 4 states away from home! From there we moved to Texas.  Now we’re back at home in Louisiana. How wise He was. As long as I stayed here in Louisiana, I was too busy for anything new, so He cut me off. South Carolina was to me as the Kerith Ravine was to Elijah: I was cut off from people and busy-ness so that I could spend time with and be fed by God alone. Elijah stayed 3-1/2 years in his ravine; I stayed 7 ( I’m a slow learner). What wonderful things God did during that time and what glorious lessons I learned.

I used to whine about how long it was taking for me to learn, to grow, to write, to be published. “God, You promised! Where is it?” He lovingly led me to stories like Abraham who had to wait 25 years to receive his promised son; or Moses who had to stay in his “desert ravine” for 40 years before he could be the promised deliverer of Israel; or Noah who faithfully followed God”s instructions for 120 years before the promised flood came. So, in God’s economy, 7 years is not long at all.Journey

And now the day is here! My first book went into print August 7! To God be the glory. He always keeps His promises! Accept His promises for you and let your journey begin!