Uncategorized

My Hope is Built

Not long ago, I was on my bike headed towards a nearby town[1]. It was one of those days where I just needed to get away; I left church and started pedaling out of town on the county road with my goal in mind. I started my journey uphill; I went up the first big hill and then down half a hill and up the next big hill and then down the next half hill, etc[2]. It was exhausting. In my head, each hill discouraged me more and more until I finally gave up and turned Sylvia[3] around and made my way back into town. After 4 miles, I had my first glimpse of familiarity: The water tower. Hope flushed through my body like the first sip of coffee in the morning; the bike ride would be over, it would be over soon. All I could see before was hill after hill, climb after climb, fight after fight. Now, I knew, I was close to home.

Psalm 121, one of the psalms of accents[4], has offered hope to Christians for decades.

However, it seems that it held a much deeper meaning for the original hearers (singers) of the psalm. I heard a pastor preach on this psalm not that long ago. He shared a delightful sermon on how the idols in those days were worshiped on top of the mountains. So, when the people sang, “I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from”, they were making a statement not only about God’s sovereignty, but also about his might, power, and love. It’s as if the original singers could have also sung something like this: “I lift my eyes up to the other god’s and laugh for my help comes from the Lord, the one who made the mountains that the idols stand on.”

As delightful and scriptural as that sermon was, I must admit that the thing that still resonates in my mind when I read this psalm is the hope that we have in Jesus. So yes, the psalm may have meant, “Screw you, idols; our God is better than you”, but I think the meaning goes deeper. This is a psalm of hope and trust. We will, regardless of the circumstances in our lives or how many hills we have to climb in a row, look to OUR God who made the heavens and the earth. To lift up, not only our eyes, but also our hearts to the One who created everything, the one on whom we build our hope.

There have been many times in my life when, not by choice, I have lost hope in my circumstances or what God is doing in my life. But by the grace of God, I no longer doubt who He is or forget to trust Him. The hope that I have in God is a capital H-O-P-E kind of hope; a Romans 5 kind of hope. A hope that rests in the fact that God is who he is and that’s all I need. So even when walking through the Psalm 23 valleys or after biking up 5 consecutive hills, even if I lose hope in everything around me, my hope is still grounded in MY God. Praise Him for He IS H-O-P-E[5], through everything.

Blessing,

Gabby

[1] ok, so maybe not that near-by; 15 miles is quite a way by bike. Spoiler alert…I didn’t make it.

[2] People who think that Iowa is flat clearly have never tried to pedal 15 miles.

[3] If you don’t recall from one of my earlier blogs… that is the name of my bike. She is teal and the kind of spunky that also makes her beautiful.

[4] There is a group of psalms in the bible that is labeled as the song of accents. This means that the people who would make the journey sang them as they traveled up to Jerusalem.

[5] It’s who he is… and G-O-O-D. It’s who he is.

Uncategorized

Good, Good Father

One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on lately is what to call God. This is two fold: the name of God and also the attributes of God.

There are certainly several different names to give God[1]. But I will take time to reflect on just one:

I’ve been told by assorted pastors[2] over the years about the significance of the name Yahweh[3]; we get the name Yahweh from the four asperate[4] consonants that are put together to mean the name of God in Hebrew in the Old Testament. People in that time wouldn’t even reference the name of God in its entirety because of the how holy he is; God’s name was so holy, so heavy for them.

In light of that, there are two reasons why I find that Yahweh holds so much weight in our current context. First, it comes from the fact that God is too holy for words; there is no name that I can give God that recognizes all of who he is. Even more significantly, though, is its weight because of the grace and mercy that God gives me just to utter his name. Just being allowed and encouraged to call out to my God, to use his name[5]. Wow! What love! I use Yahweh because God is not only holy, but he is also MY God, MY holy Father, MY personal savior, MY Yahweh.

So let’s say that I have now decided to call God, Yahweh. But who is Yahweh? How do I describe a God that is too holy for vowels?

When I am writing songs, I often agonize over getting just the right descriptor for God; God has already been called so many attributes that don’t seem to even remotely cover who he is. How do I describe the LORD of the universe? How do I describe in one word what he has done for me, who he is, and how he sees me?

As I reflected on this, I kept coming back to the word “good”. What a simple word; a simple word that you ascribe to a dog or a slice of pizza[6]. No, the word “good” isn’t good enough for MY God. Yet, that was the word that kept coming to mind[7].

On Good Friday, I was delivering Easter Lilies to a church as part of my new job. I heard one of the radio personal reflect on the “good” of Good Friday. She mentioned that this instance of “good” was taken from the old English way of saying “holy”.

When I heard that, my definition of the word “good” opened. I realized in that moment that “good” is not a simple word. Like Yahweh, “good” holds more weight than it seems. If “good” can mean holy, it can also mean faithful and loving, kind and compassionate and whatever other words we use to inadequately describe God.

I can confidently say, then, that God is good. But not “just” good. He is capital G-O-O-D, good. Always.

He is a good, good Father; it’s who he is. Always.

Blessings,

Gabby

 

[1] I often default to Father.

[2] Maybe some pastors reading this might want to enter the conversation in the comment section.

[3] I believe that it gets translated in our bibles as LORD (in all capitals).

[4] Some pastors have associated the use of these consonants to mean the breath of God because you have to breath out when you say them. More on this in a later blog post…

[5] I don’t need a Moses or a prophet or a pastor or clergy member. Me. I can talk to God through Jesus Christ, the only mediator I need.

[6] or the expected response when you ask someone, “how are you doing today?”

[7] I had a few friends in college these past couple of years that hated the song, “Good, Good Father” (Tomlin) because of the attempt to give God the attribute of “good” as a term of praise

Uncategorized

My Heart Beats “Fast”-er

I love to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and if it were up to me, we would celebrate it every week. I think that communion, on its own, is transformative. Now, I’m a good, classically trained, Reformed girl. However, I believe that communion is just as important as the preaching of the word; the Spirit is at work in both. Because of its transformational nature, I look forward to communion on the occasion that it comes around[1]. The last time we celebrated communion was especially meaningful.

It was the first Sunday of Lent and I had been fasting for 5 days. After 5 days of fasting, I still feel hunger pains and still must depend heavily on God for strength.
Despite planning the service, I had forgotten about communion and what that would mean for my fasting body. As I squished the bread between my thumb and index finger, a couple of brief thoughts pushed themselves into my head: “Should I eat this?” and “I’m fasting; am I allowed to eat this?”.
Then, before those abrasive thoughts could continue, I heard the chorus come through my monitor: “Take, eat, remember, and believe”.
And I ate.
As I placed the bread into my mouth and began chewing, it wasn’t as if I was chewing a dry piece of bread that had been sitting out on the communion table since the night before; it was as if I was eating the only meal I would ever need.
After I swallowed those few calories, I felt them take up space in my stomach. I felt like I was the fullest that I had ever been. The Psalm 23:5[2] kind of full; so full of desperation that I could taste it. The physical hunger pains had been pushed out by the spiritual desperation pains that I felt deep in my heart for the presence God.
As my soul cried out to my Father, the realization set in.
I had to get back to work. For the first time since I started planning services, I was going to sing a solo during the passing of the cup.
With tear stained cheeks, I began playing chords in the wrong rhythm.
With my heart beating faster than the rhythm of my movements, I started over.
I made a lot more mistakes, but I sang.
My voice wavered, but I sang.
I sang, “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”[3].
Just allowing the word “feast” to escape from my lips, sent a wave of hope down my spine. The kind of hope that would not end; the book of Revelation kind of hope. I believed in that moment every word that I was singing to the fullest sense of each word. I believed that the troubles of this life would end and I was taking hold of the promise that “we will feast and weep no more”.
By the time the elders were making their way up the isle with the leftover grape-juice-filled-cups, I was shaking, almost violently and weeping. But not the John 11[4] type of weeping. I was weeping because in that moment, while I sang, my desperation was turned to hope. The deepest desperation that I had ever felt in a church service was met by the fullest sense of hope. Completely unable to control myself, I let my tears bathe E4 and A4[5].
I was awakened from my trance only when I heard the pastors starting to give their cup-speech. I startled, then bent down to pick up the communion cup that one of the elders placed at my feet while I was singing.
I let the grape juice trace my esophagus on the way down; I relished in the sweetness that filled my mouth and the hope that filled my soul.

This moment was near perfect and I do believe that there will be a day when we will feast and when our troubles will be over. I just hope that when that day comes, and my joy is complete, that I will be able to weep in the presence of my Holy Father. Weep not out of sadness or regret, but out of thankfulness and love.

Blessings,
Gabby

[1] At the church where I work, we have been celebrating communion about once every two months. The worship team recently petitioned the council to move the frequency of communion up to once a month. This gradual change will happen over the course of about a year.

[2] From the NIV: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

[3] By Sandra McCracken: https://sandramccracken.bandcamp.com/track/we-will-feast-in-the-house-of-zion

[4] After the death of Lazarus, in grief, Jesus wept.

[5] For you none-musician types, these are the names of notes on the keyboard.

Uncategorized

Through These Lenten Days And Nights

It is Lent[1].

I’ve always loved Lent; I used to love it because it gave me an excuse to wallow in self-pity and self-destruction under the disguise of holiness and repentance or I used it as a glorified diet technique[2].

Now, however, Lent has become much more meaningful: a true returning to the Lord, naming the sins in my life, and attacking them head on with the help of the Savior.

The past two Lenten seasons I have committed myself to a very hard journey; I’ve fasted[3]. I’ve fasted not from one particular thing, but from food in general. Now before you freak out about how I didn’t eat for 6 weeks – which is not recommended – I practice Intermittent Fasting[4]. That is, I fast for most of the day and then enjoy one highly caloric meal (800ish calories). This year I am fasting 20 hours a day and having a meal anywhere between 5-9pm. Within the fasting period I am allowed 200-300 calories from liquids. This is how it plays out for me: a cup of coffee in the morning, 70 calories of vegetable juice in the late morning- early afternoon, and if I need it 130 calories of fruit juice mixed with half water in the later afternoon[5].

So, I’m fasting for Lent. I started February 14th (Ash Wednesday) and will continue until Easter Morning (April 1). Last year when I fasted, I didn’t tell anyone that I was doing it. Or maybe I told a few people who were starting to grow concerned for my welfare. However, this year, I am telling everyone. I’m telling everyone because I need them to help me. Fasting for 24 hours, easy. Fasting for a week, hard. Fasting for 6 weeks non-stop, almost impossible. So I need accountability and I need support. Obviously, I rely on God for strength during the day, but I need your prayers too. So if you’re the talking-to-Jesus type of person, please say some prayers for both strength and wisdom as I push through these Lenten days and nights.

If you would also like a prayer warrior for your own Lenten journey[6], I love to talk to the-big-guy-upstairs.

Blessings,

Gabby

[1] Welcome to that time in the church calendar when Catholics stop eating meat and some of the CRC’s give up coffee or chocolate.

[2] One year I gave up processed sugar and dropped 30 lbs in 6 weeks.

[3] with a doctors supervision

[4] If you want to hear one persons story on this weight loss trend: https://www.prevention.com/food/i-tried-intermittent-fasting-for-a-week

[5] I usually only drink the fruit juice if I go to the gym in the early afternoon.

[6] or any other journey for that matter