Thursday, March 27, 2014

Portals Into God’s Presence: O, How I Love Jesus

Last night I had the pleasure of worshipping at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, in Somerset, NJ. My pastor, Rev. Dr. Ronald L. Owens was the preacher for their Lenten service. My heart was not only warmed to be in worship one more time, but also because the hymn for the night was, “O, How I Love Jesus.” I was glad because we were singing a hymn. I’ve said it before—and will continue to say it—I love a good hymn. Next to the Word of God, my faith was given language through the theology of the hymns I sang as a girl. In an effort to reach young people, many churches are opting not to sing hymns in worship. This young, funky preacher loves the old and the new. I believe, if used prayerfully and considerately, that tradition can usher us into greater intimacy with God. All that is to say give me a hymn any day.

But besides loving a good hymn, I love this particular hymn. As I think about today’s moment of grace, this hymn embodies the very grace of God.  The first things of God’s grace is love; God’s unconditional, radical, looked beyond my faults and saw my needs kind of love as expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. I can love God—with every fire of my being—because God demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to me how much I am loved by God. As I prepared my Big Girl for bed tonight, I sang this hymn sweetly in her ear. I want her to know in her head and heart that God loves her and, because of God’s amazing love for her in Christ, that it is a pleasure to love God in her worship, her witness, and her walk.

There is a name I love to hear, 
I love to sing its worth; 
it sounds like music in my ear, 
the sweetest name on earth.  

O how I love Jesus, 
O how I love Jesus, 
O how I love Jesus, 
because he first loved me!
It tells me of a Savior's love, 
who died to set me free; 
it tells me of his precious blood, 
the sinner's perfect plea.

It tells of one whose loving heart 
can feel my deepest woe; 
who in each sorrow bears a part 
that none can bear below.

If you forward a minute and a half or so into the video, you will hear Kim Burrell give this hymn life. It's short, so when the music fades I dare you to begin to pick up where she left off and declare your love for Jesus in song. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Moments of Grace

It has been a long time.

A long time, indeed. 

Since my last posting, much has happened. I have been named the Minister of Christian Education and Church Life at the New Hope Baptist Church in Metuchen and a beautiful baby girl has been gestating in my womb. (I cannot believe I ran my first 10K while unknowingly four weeks pregnant!) Hubby and I are thrilled! To God be the glory!

At 18 weeks and counting...

Celebrating my mom's 65th birthday at 21 weeks...

Big Girl (the daughter formerly known as Baby Girl) doing her thing...

Big Girl has been growing by leaps and bounds in so many ways. It is amazing to watch her grow and develop into this twenty-two month old girl-child with smarts, sweets, a sense of humor, and stubbornness to boot. While I wish I could say that this pregnancy has been easy, it has been quite the opposite. I had many health challenges in my first trimester complete with a 3-day hospital stay. At this point, I still have really bad days (though they are fewer and far between). Taking care of a toddler while pregnant is something else the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. All of this while trudging through seasonal depression and a surge of wicked hormones from weaning Big Girl. I must admit, I had some days where my faith was faltering, days where making it to bedtime was my highest aspiration. What helped me through these times is to recognize the grace of God--God's unmerited favor and blessings--in the midst of it all.

There was a time when I could only communicate the grace of God in fluffy and lofty religious language. But recently, my eyes have been opened to see God's grace in the simple and the profound, in the ordinary and the extraordinary, without a separation of the secular from the sacred. For that revelation, I am grateful. I have been sharing these "Moments of Grace" on Facebook as a witness to the goodness of God and in hopes to encourage someone else--most especially another mother who may feel overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility that comes with parenting a young child. Posting has had another beautiful and unexpected consequence; When I sit down to share my moments of grace, my mind is flooded with so many to choose from. In the moment of posting, I am living out the words written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (4:8).

I wanted to share these moments here, as a way of reentering the blogosphere. So, here goes:

Grace: Baby Girl sleeping late so I could get ready for the [St. James AME Newark Women's Ministry] conference, hearing two different--but equally dynamic--women of God bringing the Word, and hubby taking Baby Girl to park so momma can relax even though he had her all day. I am blessed, indeed!
March 15, 2014

Grace: yesterday Deaconess Jaime slipped me two packs of crackers to put in my robe before worship in case I get hungry. Church is one of few places that still takes good care of expectant mothers.
March 16, 2014

Grace: Shampooing, detangling, rinsing, finger coiling, and blow drying Big Girl's hair without a single tear being shed. In fact, there were giggles and smiles.
March 17, 2014

Grace: having a rough mommy-to-be day and Big Girl wanted to go outside in her car. Grateful for our church member/neighbor who came by to take her out. This is the same woman who keeps her during worship. They have a great relationship and, for that, I am grateful. It really does take a village. Motherhood thrives in community.
March 18, 2014

Grace: got home well past Big Girl's bedtime after a wonderful worship service. Big Girl was silly tired (as opposed to cranky tired) which made for a fun and enjoyable dinner, bath, and bedtime.
March 19, 2014

Grace: Singing Big Girl to sleep in my arms while Little Girl in my womb danced along to the rhythm.
March 20, 2014

Grace: surrendering to Jesus' teaching to become as a little child--both in wholeheartedly trusting God and in the reckless abandon with which I slid down the slide today playing with Big Girl.
March 21, 2014

Grace: Sleeping in until 8:00am this morning. That may not seem like a big deal to many, but when your child is an early riser, sleeping in is better than being in Oprah Winfrey's audience during a "My Favorite Things" taping.
March 22, 2014

and lastly, my Moment of Grace from today...

Grace: Being encouraged and gently nudged to return to blogging by a seemingly random, but totally Holy Spirit inspired, group of friends who miss my voice and point of view.
March 23, 2014

Beloved, today will you pause to identify God's active and amazing grace in your life?