Gratitude Day 182 – Silent Night

Mon., Dec. 24, 2018Silent Night music score background

Luke 2:6 –   While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

It’s a Christmas tradition that began 200 years ago tonight. By accident. Out of desperation. When a pastor and the choir director had to make lemonade out of lemons. In the 11th hour.

Would you like to know the rest of the story?

Good.

Vintage silent night

It happened in the tiny village of Oberdorf, high in the Australian Alps on the afternoon of Dec. 24, 1818. Joseph Mohr, the local Catholic priest was desperate. The church organ had given out. It was impossible to have it repaired before the evening Christmas Eve service. He wrote a few stanzas about the Christmas season. Miraculously, the church’s organist, Frank Gruber, composed a simple tune to accompany the words. The original score was written for two voices: a tenor and a bass, and two guitars.

During the midnight service, the song, “Silent Night, Holy Night” was heard for the first time. Or in German, “Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!”

Quickly, the song moved beyond the tiny village … but without attributes to Mohr or Gruber. It wasn’t until the 1850’s, a full 30-years later, that Gruber and Mohr realized their little song was quickly becoming the most beloved piece of Christmas music.

Tonight, millions of church will sing “Silent Night” in worship. Most of them will have this song at the end of the service, with people holding a brightly lit candle in their hands while singing the words.

There are many, many traditions I love about Christmas. The moment I feel like it REALLY is Christmas? Singing “Silent Night.”

Festive Christmas carol background with music

Years ago, I bought a guitar. I thought I would quickly be able to pick up the guitar. How naive I was! With just a few lessons under my belt, I chose to make Christmas Eve and “Silent Night” the first time I would play the guitar in worship.

 

I love ending Christmas Eve worship singing this song to guitar; just like what happened on Christmas Eve in 1818. As we sing the beloved words, I look around the room. I see candles bringing a warm and deeply meaningful glow to the room. My heart swells. A lump develops in my throat. I have a hard time getting the words out. I sit quietly after we finish singing, not wanting this peaceful moment to end. I want to hold this experience in my head and heart just a little longer.

Kids are ready to rush home and see if there was a visitor while they were gone. There is dinner to eat, games to play and time to enjoy being together.

But I want to hold onto “Silent Night, Holy Night,” just a little longer.

I don’t think it was a very silent night for Mary in Bethlehem. The worry of finding a place to lodge and going through childbirth with just the man you have committed your life too seems terrible daunting. Yet, Mary rose above all of this and more. In the end, she found the night to be a very holy as she cradled the Son of God. Even in a sticky stable, Mary knew this baby would change the world.

Do we know this? The baby, whose birthday we celebrate tonight, would change more of history than any other human being? Can make more imprints on our lives than we can imagine?

Because of this, we too, can have silent nights and holy nights.

I pray you are able to attend a worship service tonight and rehear the Christmas story. At minimum, light a candle and sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Hold unto the moment beyond when the words are completed. Write them in your heart and hold onto them tightly throughout the year.

Christmas Eve Silent Night

For silent and holy nights, I am grateful.

Holy God – we pray: silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and milk, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. Amen.

Blessings & Merry Christmas –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 174 – Worship

Sun., Dec. 9, 2018

Psalm 122:1- I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let’s go to the Lord’s house!”

The Rookie

In the movie The Rookie, Dennis Quaid plays Jim Morris. Based on a true story, Jim coached high school baseball. When his team makes the state high school playoffs, he fulfills a promise to the team and tries out for a major league baseball team. Never mind that Jim is in his 30’s and has a family. When he consistently throws the ball 98 mph at a try-out, he is signed to a minor league team.

It’s a tough summer for Morris. He’s traveling in a bus with a bunch of college kids, while his wife and family are home, barely paying their bills. He’s questioning why he’s pursuing this dream. After an opportunity to remember why, he walks into the locker room before a game and approaches another player, Brooks. Morris says to Brooks, “Today is going to be a good day. Today, we get to play baseball.”

Today is Sunday. Today is going to be a good day. Today, we get to worship God.

A little over a year ago, I stepped down from serving two churches as the pastor. After planning weekly worship for 18 years, Sunday mornings have been very different the last year. Yes, I have had the opportunity to fill the pulpit many times. Some Sundays, like today, I will provide music for a worship service. Whether I’m the pastor leading worship or the pianist sitting behind the piano, I look forward to Sunday because this is the day we get to worship God.

kids time at Midland

I’ve been asked whether Hubby Rick and I have found a church home. Quite honestly, we worship in a variety of churches. Most months, we worship at a different church every week of the month. This has been a big change for both of us. Our Sunday morning routine is very different than it was for the previous 17 years of our marriage. I don’t leave home before Rick. We go to worship together. Sometimes, we even get to sit next to each other for some or all of the worship service. Every Sunday, we get to worship God.

Believe it or not, worship is the single most popular act in the United States on a weekly basis. Even in a time of declining church attendance, more people will attend worship service today than will attend a professional football game. More people will take time to gather with other people of their particular religion than will go to a theater production.

 

I know, you may find this hard to believe. But it’s true.

In the many years I actively served faith communities and congregations, more than one person approached me and shared their reason why they did not attend worship on a regular basis. It was the only day of the week they could sleep in. They needed a break. They had gotten out of the habit of going to worship. They can’t find a worship service that “speaks” to them. They don’t want to be hypocritical and go to church when they aren’t sure what they believe. And the list goes on … and on … and on.

Here’s the deal. Worship is not something we do because we feel like it. There are many things we do, even if we don’t always feel like it. Do you only go to work when we feel like it? If most of us only exercised when we felt like it, there’s a whole bunch of people who would never exercise again.

Here’s the truth: feelings can be great liars. Feelings allow us to justify anything, if we allow it. If we only do things when we really feel like it, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that would never get done, including worship.

Too often, we talk ourselves in or out of something because we don’t feel it. We justify our actions by declaring that it would be inauthentic to do this task if our heart isn’t in it. Here’s where worship is different: worship is an act that develops a feeling for God, not a feeling for God that is an act of worship. Through worship, we begin to feel things of and for God that we would not experience unless we worship God.

quartet at midland

What about those people who say they can’t find a worship service that speaks to them? There will be days when worship is going to resonate with you more than other worship services. Unfortunately, we’re not all on the same page at the same time. You WILL attend a worship service that is a dud. I’ve been to these worship services. I’m confident I’ve led some of these duds. Worship is not just about style or a particular kind of music or liturgy. Worship is not about us. It’s about God. It’s looking beyond whatever happens in worship and finding the One True God who created you, who loves you and who deeply wants to be in relationship with you. This is worship. Period.

Instead of the line he said in the movie, think of Dennis Quaid saying these words to Brooks, “Let’s go to the house of the Lord!” Let’s discover who God is for us today, whether we feel like it or not. Let’s look beyond the worship elements and simply meet the Lord. Worship is a matter of the heart; our heart being open to discovering God anew today. And when we open ourselves to God, I believe amazing things can happen.

Psalm 122

For the opportunity to worship today, I am grateful.

Holy God – Advent is such a special time of the year. A time for us to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. I pray we make regular worship a part of this preparation. Help us be on a journey to Bethlehem with Mary, Joseph and the angel. May we be amazed what happens to our hearts when we worship you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 136 – Honest Questions

Tues., Oct. 16, 2018

Job 1:8 – The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you thought about my servant Job; surely there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil?”

“When are we going to be done?”

It was such an innocent question. A question that has been asked millions of times by other young 4- or 5-year-old boys.

It’s the context that makes the difference. It was during Sunday worship, right in the middle of the message. The pastor, who happens to be the young lad’s grandpa, hesitated momentarily and spoke back to his young grandson, “I’ll try to speed up the sermon, Collin.”

There was a collective chuckle throughout the worship space.

HonestyI love this age-group of kids. They have their own thoughts and ideas, yet they are not yet jaded. In their innocence, they are brutally honest and often speak whatever is on their mind.

Just like what happened during Sunday worship.

Haven’t we all, at some point or another, thought to ourselves, “When is this sermon going to be done?” Or “Will this worship service ever get over?”

The difference: this young guy wasn’t afraid to ask his grandfather, during worship with no hesitation.

Have there been times and situations in your life when you really wanted to ask an honest question … but didn’t? Maybe we felt it would be inappropriate. Or we didn’t want to interrupt. Or we were confident we wouldn’t really get an answer anyways. Or an answer we’d be happy with.

So, we stay quiet. We formulate a variety of possible outcomes in our brains, often based on incomplete information. Our minds go a million possible directions with no guarantee we’ve even come up with the right response.

Even more important? Grandpa took a few seconds and answered his inquisitive grandson. And keep rolling along.

One reason people may stop asking God honest questions is because we feel there is no answer. Or we won’t receive an answer we’ll like. This should not stop us from asking honest questions: to God, our peers and those around us.

Job is admired because he was honest, lived with integrity and respected God and tried to avoid evil. His friends keep trying to convince him that the reason he lost everything, and I mean everything, is because at some point, he wasn’t honest with God. In fact, the opposite is true. Job never gavep on God. Eventually, God shows us and gives a powerful answer to Job.

Tough questions are OK … as long as we are honest. If we have respect for God and answers to prayers and requests are different from our wishes, God is fine with us questioning God. The question is: can we be OK with God?

Collin sat through the rest of the service, no more spoken aloud questions. He must have been satisfied with Grandpa’s answer.

What is the lesson for us? Ask God anything you wish. Seriously. You may reach a spot where you can accept God’s answers, whether you agree or not. But let’s not stop asking questions. Let’s keep them rolling.

For complete honestly, I am thankful.

Lord God – sometimes, our questions seem difficult and challenging. But for you, no question is impossible. May we listen when you answer our questions, even if the answer is very different from our desired answer. Help us be significantly honest with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 129 – God is So Good  

Mon., Oct. 1, 2018

2 Chronicles 5:13 – The trumpeters and singers joined together to praise and thank the Lord as one. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other musical instruments, they began to sing, praising the Lord: Yes, God is good! Yes, God’s faithful love lasts forever! Then a cloud filled the Lord’s temple.

Looking for a great way to start your Monday morning? This week?

Click on this music video. Turn up the speaker on your computer or phone or whatever device you are at. And just listen.

For this time of worship at the beginning of another busy week, I am thankful.

God, You are so good. Help me remember this every day, all week long. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 125 – Worship

Fri., Sept. 20, 2018

Psalm 66:4 – All the earth worships you, sings praises to you, sings praises to your name!” Selah

As a Christian, I feel worshiping God is an important part of my spiritual journey. One way Christians worship God is by attending a worship service at a church. Yes, this is part of Hubby Rick and I’s weekly ritual. However, I also know one hour a week with God is not enough to sustain my spiritual soul until the following Sunday. This worship sustains me until, oh, about Sunday night. This isn’t God’s fault. It’s my problem. My soul needs more God-time than one hour a week.

radio

One way I bring worship into my daily live is in the car. Crazy as it sounds, my vehicle is a sanctuary for me. Regularly, I listen to Christian music or a favorite CD while driving. And when one of my favorite songs is playing, watch out! I sing right along! (And be thankful no one else can hear me.)

There are so many different genres of Christian music. It’s easy for people to assume their favorite style of Christian music is the “real” music that God likes. Sorry to tell you folks, I think God is far less discriminating that this. Music that sings praises to God and involves drawing people closer to God is probably more than alright with God. It’s as much about our attitude with the music as it is in the actual song itself.

 

The psalmist helped us see this. ALL earth worships God, the psalmist wrote. The singing songbird, the clanging gong, the noisy tractor can all be opportunities to worship God … as long as they help us see who God is and draws us closer to God. When I view the cockpit of my car as a sanctuary, I’m confident God rejoices in my worship.

CD

Where do you feel close to God? What opportunities arise in your life where you can worship God … outside of regular worship? I pray you grab these opportunities to become your sanctuary with God on a regular basis.

For worship opportunities, I am thankful.

I pray, Lord God, that you are pleased when I take moments throughout the week to worship you. May I seize the opportunities that come my way each week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 33 – Give Thanks

give thanksMon., May 7, 2018

2 Corinthians 1:11 – Please help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks for the blessings we receive in answer to all these prayers.

During worship on Sunday, there came a time when I truly felt at home. Many years ago as a pastor, I began using the song “Give Thanks” after the offering rather than the Doxology. Some people really love the Doxology. I really love “Give Thanks.”

Why? Early in our marriage, Hubby Rick’s eldest son was killed months before we were married. There were times it was a challenge to make sense of this accident. Nate was just 21. So much life to live. Sed quickly because of a snowmobiling accident.

Many days, Rick would come home and sing, “Give Thanks.” It was a purposeful way for him to remind himself that in everything, he wanted to give thanks. In the good days, give thanks. In the awful days, give thanks. In the days that are too busy, give thanks. In the days when life is too difficult, give thanks. In the days that may seem boring and predictable, give thanks.

Simply, give thanks.

Read (or sing) the words of this worship song:

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Give thanks.

Today’s bible verse reminds us of something important in our daily lives. Most Christians pray. What tops our prayer list? Our needs, our wants, where we want God to intervene and intervene now. Here, how are we encouraged to pray? For all the blessings we have received because of answered prayer. It seems so much easier to criticize God for unanswered prayers than to give thanks to God for answered prayer. Too often, we dwell on the prayers that don’t get answered as we desire and give little credit for when a prayer is answered in an amazing and surprising way.

As we stood and sang this song during in worship, my heart felt very full, blessed and at peace. I just wanted to express my thanks to God for all the answered prayers, the blessings in our lives and the ways God works in our lives we take for granted. I just wanted to give thanks.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I pray we give thanks to you this day: for things we see and the things we don’t see. For our place in our lives even when we take it for granted. For all the prayers you have answered which have had an impact in our lives. We give you thanks. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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