How Can I Keep From Singing

Background Passage: Psalm 59:16-17

The hectic nature of life the week brings about a short post. I’m currently with a small group of people from my church this week on a mission trip to Collique, Peru, to build more permanent shelters for some of the families in this impoverished community tucked in the hills northeast of Lima. These are not houses as you and I understand them, but they are homes for families with little more than a roof above their heads.

This is just my second year to participate. Like the others in my group, most of whom have made this trip multiple times, I end each day amazed at how little these wonderful people have and great their joy in comparison.

Their smiles and their constant expressions of gratitude transcend the language barriers and cultural differences between us, serving as a dynamic testimony to the power of Christ to fill a heart with joy. Theirs is a faith that truly sustains through every circumstance.

For me, and I’m certain for others in our group, it is a teachable moment. These people with whom we’ve been blessed to work this week have so little. We have so much. They endure though faced with a life we can scarcely imagine. We need to remember…no, I need to remember…that despite the turmoil I feel at times, God gives me voice to declare my love for him. Our relationship with God should enable us to sing when others…lost without him…can’t hear a note.

British vocalist James Loynes recently recorded a beautiful song written by Robert Lowry, a 19th century Baptist minister and composer. The melody and words resonate on every level. The final stanza offers this word.

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his,
How can I keep from singing?

Listen to the video. Hear the gentle reminder. How can you keep from singing?


Wonderfully Made…For a Purpose

Background Passage: Psalm 139

The brightest minds in Greek and Roman worlds for centuries before and after the time of Christ believed human wisdom, emotion, memory and thought centered in the heart, not the brain. Ancient ideas of physiology and psychology told them that God spoke through the heart; that within the heart lived the essence of man’s soul. They believed the brain was an internal radiator that simply cooled the blood as it circulated through the body.

Influenced by these cultures, the ancient Hebrews understood that the core of who and what they were was centered in the heart. In other words, like the ancient Greeks, they believed the heart was the focus of all rational thought and emotion. So unimportant was the brain in Hebrew thinking that the word is never recorded in scripture…not once.

Scientifically, we know the ancients were wrong. We continue to learn more about the brain as the depth of scientific research grows into the complex role it plays in our how we think, feel and learn. Though we know better, we still speak of “feeling” and “thinking” with our hearts, a metaphorical echo of scientific error relegated to the pages of history.

The human brain functions as one of God’s most marvelous creations, yet only in the past 150 years have scientists and physicians made serious efforts to understand how it works. In 1861, French physician Pierre Paul Broca discovered that small region of the left frontal lobe of the brain controls our ability to speak. In subsequent studies since that time, scientists have identified 83 specific areas of the brain that activate when we recognize a face, read a book, think about a specific memory or do certain types of physical work.

Neuroscientists at the University of Washington recently published a new map of the brain, revealing more than 97 previously unknown regions of the brain to add to the 83 areas already familiar to today’s scientists.

A Stanford University study recently used a new imaging technique called array tomography to look more closely at the brain’s neurons and synapses. The data collected produced a three-dimensional picture of these tiny cell connections. The images indicate that the number of synapses in the brain exceed the number of estimated stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies combined, making the brain far more complex that previously understood.

These new discoveries caused a few of my own synapses to make a few new connections. I thought of Psalms 139. The Psalmist, in his praise of God, wrote beautiful lyrics about his creative work.

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

We are God’s creation. Whether we developed through an evolutionary process or appeared in a molding of clay and bone is really immaterial to me. Neither view changes my understanding of God as Creator. To focus on that debate misses the point of my personal relationship to him. That he gave me this marvelous brain that thinks, acts, reasons, chooses, understands and loves is an amazing gift that governs my relationships to my God and to others. That he gave me the ability to grasp the concept of faith in him is grace in full measure.

That thought led to another. My son and his wife, Melissa, are expecting their second child in December. They have named her Amelia Diane. We saw another ultrasound of her yesterday. Even now as her body is developing inside the womb, God knows her and all she will become. The Psalmist explored that idea, also.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

I think of these things not to get into a debate on abortion and the definition of when life starts. Rather, I stand amazed that God already knows my granddaughter. That a God-ordained, perfect plan already exists for her life. That the only things standing in the way of that life are the choices she makes and the positive influence brought to bear through the unconditional love of her Christian parents and all of those who enter her life.

Her intricate and incomparable brain will be imprinted with her God-given uniqueness etched throughout its gray matter. The life he plans for her will unfold as it is imparted by her parents, instructed by gifted teachers at church and at school, and inspired by the love of family and friends that desire only the best for her.

One final thought occurred to me as I read again this familiar scripture. Intellectually, I know our brains, not our hearts, make us who we are. Yet, we must continue to lean upon the understanding of the ancients, like the Psalmist, to express our desire to be all that God wants us to be.

He planted a seed in all of us that longs for a Father. As we allow that seed to grow, God guides our lives through every trial, test and temptation. The seed, that free-will choice of heart and head–creates purpose. We uncover our purpose in God when we honestly seek him and genuinely desire to walk the path he sets out for us. As the Psalmist sang,

“Search me, God and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me.
Lead me in the way everlasting.”

Orcas, Octonauts and Walruses

The list of things for which my grandsons are thankful circle the stem of their Thanksgiving pumpkin, spiraling down its side, one thought after another. As you read the list, you find what you would expect to find…Mommy, Daddy, family, boats, planes, doctors, tents, trains, specific toys and Ashley, the “kid-sitter…” because at four and two years of age, respectively, Eli and Josiah do not require a “baby-sitter.”

While most of their gratitude points to ordinary things that might appear on any child’s list, three things stand out…orcas, Octonauts and walruses. Intriguing sea creatures and a cartoon. I doubt any of those three would have made my prayer list.

Their Thanksgiving pumpkin, a family tradition designed to instill a sense of gratefulness to God for his many blessings, reminds me that I frequently take so much for granted. The innocence of children tends to see everything around them as a gift, worthy of the time it takes to say thank you to a God they are only beginning to understand.

As adults we grow jaded to the gifts around us. Preoccupied. Caught up in the chaos of our own choosing. Taking precious little time to think about the orcas, the Octonauts and the walruses. My grandchildren reminded me that the world is full of wonder and worthy of my gratitude.

I am thankful for all God has given me. That which I can touch and that which I can only feel. I have lived a charmed and blessed life, filled with people who love me and whom I love. I am blessed by God in the life He led me to and the life He has planned for me. I am grateful to God for every stroke of His hand that guided me through the choices I have made. I am thankful for the joy of experiencing what can be when you give your life to Him.

“Thankful,” a song written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, and sung by Josh Grobin, speaks plainly to that point.

In preparation for Thanksgiving Day, I share with you the lyrics and the link to a beautiful song. Read the lyrics and listen as the song is sung.

Some days we forget
To look around us
Some days we can’t see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Look beyond ourselves
There’s so much sorrow
It’s way too late to say
I’ll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
It’s so long overdue

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And every day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Even with our differences
There is a place we’re all connected
Each of us can find each other’s light

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more

There is so much to be thankful for.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, express your gratitude for the orcas, Octonauts and the walruses. And remember, while the world needs so much of His grace, there is still “so much to be thankful for.”

Click on the link below to see the video.

Source: The Searcher