Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Secret to JOY and CONTENTMENT

If, like me, you have struggled, searched and yearned to consistently possess joy and contentment, I believe that there is a secret to  finding these two elusive yet profoundly necessary elements that millions spend their lives in pursuit of but always find them just beyond their grasp.  It would be easy to say, “Send me $99.95 and I’ll send you my latest book that will unlock the secrets to JOY AND CONTENTMENT.  Call within the next 10 minutes and I’ll double your offer to share with a friend and throw in my magic chopper that slices, dices and makes julienne fries!” 

Would you believe it’s easier than that to access ….and that there is no money necessary?

Over the last 5 decades I’ve heard more than my fair share of sermons, after dinner speakers and even quacks peddling the latest and greatest items, making unbelievable and unattainable promises.  Some say, “God wants you rich and prosperous! Give a gift of (fill in the blank) today to…..” and while parts of that are true, mainly I hear a well-meaning person soliciting funds for their own pleasure and financial gain.  Don’t get me wrong: God will bless you when you give but it’s not necessarily monetary prosperity that you will know.

At a gas station once, we witnessed a father at the counter with a small child who was buying lottery tickets (which in pursuit of joy and contentment, you’d be better off to set your money on fire and douse it with gasoline, but….).  When the child asked for a piece of candy, the father said, “NO! You don’t need it.  And we’re not going to tell your Mom that WE bought these lottery tickets! It’s our little secret!” When someone tells you that you must keep a secret to yourself about anything, it’s rarely a good thing.  Nothing will be kept secret long-term:  “After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone. God will certainly judge everything that is done. This includes every secret thing, whether it is good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

When I read this morning from Philippians 4, I was reminded once again of what God continues to bring to my attention---and I am a such a very, very, very slow learner! The scripture is included at the bottom but I find lists easier to understand:
  • 1.      Rejoice in the Lord!
  • 2.     REJOICE! (see #1)
  • 3.     Be considerate.
  • 4.     God is near.
  • 5.     Never worry: Pray and
  • 6.      give thanks instead (refer to #1)
  • 7.    If, by God’s help, you can do #1-6, His PEACE and CONTENTMENT will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.

Here is where I differ from some: by God’s grace, I WILL CHOOSE to find something to be thankful for in any situation. While God does not send temptations or bad things to us, we can learn from what the evil one (I will not capitalize the name of the enemy!) uses to distract, detract, destroy or stupify God’s children!

Stop for just a minute and re-read #7.  Read it slowly. 

I’ll wait.

Did you notice that if we choose to give thanks and rejoice what will happen?  I don’t know about you but my thoughts and emotions are generally what gets me in trouble.  If I allow my thoughts and emotions an inch, they will jump on me and deflate my day quicker than a sharp pin on a big, fat balloon.  Yep.  BOOOOOMMMMMM!

Allow me to put it like this: my wonderful, loving and faithful husband is handicapped from birth.  Each year his mobility decreases a little bit more.  Tell me: how or why is that something to rejoice about?  I’ll tell you the truth: in the eyes of the world, it is grounds for anger, resentment, frustration and desertion.  I have struggled with those emotions, believe me. Boom! Burst the balloon and then POW, slap to the face.

BUT..... I am a child of the LIVING GOD. I have a choice to make! Because of this, I choose to rejoice that I have a husband who loves me just as I am.  I choose to rejoice that he is God’s child and that he is God’s gift to me!  When he needs help because of physical limitations, once again I have a choice to make: be considerate and loving or be angry and resentful of how it infringes on “my time”.  I could worry about what tomorrow or next year or the next 10 years holds and how on earth will I ever be able to care for him as we age together? No. I will not go there.  I chose to focus on today.  God is near; while I cannot see or know the future, I know who holds both the future ….and who holds me… in the palm of His hand.  Knowing this, I choose to give thanks. I choose to pray.  I choose to pour out my heart to God and trust the future---whatever may happen---into His loving care.  Let’s face it: there is very little we can do to control the future.  What I can control (by the grace of God) are my actions and reactions as the future unfolds!

Paul states in Philippians 4 how you can insure God’s peace.  Did you know that peace is a choice?  It’s not something God gives only to His favorites; it’s available to ALL of His children!  It’s as simple as focusing on what is right and deserves our praise.  The short list includes whatever is:
+ honorable
+ fair
+ acceptable
+ commendable      
= God’s peace

It costs nothing in the finances of the world but it may change some of your relationships when you choose not to gossip around the coffee pot or the water cooler.  Or when you have a choice of cutting corners to finish sooner vs. doing the job correctly, even though it may cost extra time and/or money.  What about the tv shows you watch or the books you read: is it something you could enjoy with your pastor or a child at your side? When you think no one’s looking, do you still choose to do the right thing?  Do you always give your best? Do you admit it when you make a mistake and then correct it? Do you take time to read God’s Word and talk to Him each day?

These are questions I ask myself over and over.  They are not meant to condemn you but to keep me honest.  When I go to bed at night, I want to know that I have endeavored to be and do the very best that I could because that’s what God did for me. When He created this beautiful world …and when He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die not for his own sin of his own but for my poor, dumb, sorry, rotten, wretched self.  With that in mind, how on earth could I do anything but rejoice?

 “Always rejoice  in the Lord! I'll say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus….keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you've learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:4-8

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On the Front Porch of Grace

Have you ever pondered something for months only to come the realization that this is something I will think about the rest of my life and still never wholly understand? I’ve been “chewing” on the concept of holiness for over a year now and believe that holiness has much more to do with God’s grace than any of my feeble accomplishments.

As I’ve struggled with this, my thinking keeps coming back to this: if I were to compare the life of holiness to a house, I would pick something like this home.  From a distance it looks inviting and well cared for; in fact, I might even wander a little closer to get a better look. 

As I draw nearer, I want to kick myself.  I’ve been intrigued with the back porch, and now realize there is something much better and bigger on the other side!  What a great place to hang out and relax.   It looks so comfortable—the kind of place I dream of spending the afternoon or even vacation here? I can easily envision taking a nap, a gentle breeze, laughing with friends and family.  If I could have a porch like this, I know that I’d be very content.  I would be comfortable.

In fact, many of us would be satisfied to stay right there on that great porch.  What’s not to like?  Relaxing, comfortable, and room to stretch out. Lazy like a Sunday afternoon.  Ahhhhhh, I feel that nap coming on!  But, you say, “It’s not our house! We haven’t met the owner, so how could we lay claim to their perfect porch?” Surely they wouldn’t mind if I stayed  just a moment or two!  It doesn’t appear that anyone is at home.  A gifted person who has created something this fabulous would surely want me to enjoy it. Right?

This is how I came into the life of grace.  I watched countless people come and go from “a house” that I had admired all my life.  Yet the vast majority were quite satisfied to live on the front porch. As part of my position, I have made more home visits than I can count to persons in our church family. Most every time I have been invited inside to visit or even sit down and make myself at home---even if I drop by unnounced.  The exceptions that I could count on one hand either met me at the door or in the driveway.  One dear woman, who did not have the gift of housekeeping walked me immediately back to my car after her kind husband invited me inside to visit!

Maybe you have figured out by now that I’m attempting to compare the unspeakable, infinite grace of God to a house; not just any house but a huge, welcoming home where -- if we will but enter -- the family inside will welcome us as if they have waited years for our arrival.  This is a home you’ve
driven by more than once and are caught off-guard each time you pass by something that inexplicably draws you.  Maybe you’ve had friends or family enter that house and follow them; or never before have you have seen or heard anything about the house or the occupants but you just have to know why people want to go there. 

The approach to the house is prevenient grace, a term John Wesley would have applied to the drawing of the Holy Spirit before you were ready to accept God’s love.  This is the grace that seeks, woos, chases, pursues you, even knitting you together in your Mother’s womb as Psalm 139 says.  I believe that you can even step on the porch and spend days or even years there without making a move for the door.

Some folks may debate “I found God….” to which I would cry long and loud “BULL!!!!” God never was, is or will be lost, friend.  See Romans 3:10-11; We were the ones who were lost. We couldn’t
find the nose on our face if it weren’t for the grace of God that has pursued us all these years! But God does wait, He watches and pleads for you put your hand up to knock on grace’s door, your fingers don’t even have a chance to recoil before God has flung the door open wide as it will go to receive you.  Yes, unbeknownst to you, He really has been waiting and watching until the very moment that you were ready to ask. When we call out to him, we find that He was indeed there all the time.

Next post, we’ll walk through the door because you are invited inside!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Just Perfect

John Wesley is best known for his tireless work in founding small groups within the Church of England that were called METHODIST sarcastically because of Wesley's insistance on being methodical in the Christian life: Bible reading, fasting, early to bed and to rise, journaling, etc.  Although it was a term of derision from mockers, it stuck, much like a kid's nickname that makes fun of some quirk.  While Methodism spread like wildfire for more than 200 years, there was one huge thorn on the rose of Methodism that became a real sticking point.

As a scholar, priest and a seeker, he took seriously all the words of scripture for an ordered, disciplined life.  Among those Biblical commands that John Wesley preached and proposed was what he called "perfection".  As used by Wesley, teleioi or τέλειοι, comes solely from the New Testament (Matthew 5:48, 1 Corinithians 14:20, Phillipians 3:15, Colossians 4:12, James 1:4) The Greek origin,  télos  means traveling toward a destination or a consumation; it is closure or arrival at a goal.  Consider the old barbarian pirates with their eyeglass extending toward their destination--- the telescope.  Before leaving the Greek, I think it's interesting to see it as something that unfolds, stage by stage, a maturation, which is how I see perfection.  But why is perfection important and how does it apply to you and me?

John Wesley took a lot of ridicule because he broke out of the typical mold.   I think 99.9% his problem with the doctrine of perfection is what he chose to call it.  Systematic Theologian: yes. Organizer? Oh yeah! Marketing....not so much.   But when you call it holiness instead of perfection, it's it's easier to swallow, right? An even more palatable way to break it down is to call it growing in the faith.  It should describe all Christians who take the time and energy to read their Bible; who pray and seek to love God more in their heart and through their actions---not just on Sunday---but every day. Tell us we're supposed to be perfect and my eyes glaze over. I give up.  Can I, through Christ who gives me strength, love God and people? I will do my darned best!

Wesley believed that this was worked out in small accountability groups, where those on the same journey could ask hard but honest questions.  How, though, could they measure any progress on the road to perfection errrrr, holiness, I mean? It was pretty simple, actually.  The criteria Jesus would have used would be the greatest commandments (Matthew 22):

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
John Wesley called it perfection.  Yet others have called it holiness. The key word is actually love.  Love God. Love others. As you grow toward God, you become more like Him, which is LOVE.  Just like in the triangle above, as you grow, the distance between yourself and God or yourself and others diminishes. Grow in love!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pitching my Tent

If you're like me, there are one or two long distance friends that you still---even decades later---still connect with but rarely are able to see face to face.  Although we don't talk on a daily basis, we can pick up the conversation like it was moments instead of months or even years later.  How I hope and pray you have at least one of those friends.  This, and subsequent posts, are spurred by a couple of these recent conversations.

One thing I've noticed as I've grown up and grown older, I fought with my parents and worked hard not to be like them as a teenager and young adult.  As a new mother who had birthed an unbelievably strong willed child and left the hospital with no instruction book, my parents suddenly transformed into a combination of rock-star and brain surgeon wrapped into one. More than 20 years later, now that my Mom has passed and Dad nears 90, I realize how I wasted decades trying to avoid being around them and even trying not to be like them.  As their child, I am not only like my parents ..... I am my parents.  I love chocolate and desserts, seeing where history was made and meeting new people who expand my horizons.  A library is an attractive place where you can see pretty much the world from your own corner without spending a nickle.  I love to laugh and to share that laughter with those I love  as
well as complete strangers.  Some of this I learned; most of it came from simply being their child and being immersed in their particular school of persuasion.  
A large course of study in that persuasive school was church.  We attended Sunday morning for Sunday School and worship.  Vacation Bible School.  Youth Group. If the doors of the church were open, generally, we were there whether we wanted to be or not.  Call me odd, but I liked it.  I still like it.  One of the things I picked up along the way was the idea of growing in grace.  I don't recall that it was particularly taught but something I observed.  People are drawn to Christ and some even pinpoint that along the way there was a redemption moment (some might say a process, because they know they gave their life to Christ but cannot give you a specific date in time).  This redemption includes confessing that I am a sinner and that I need the forgiveness of Jesus to raise me out of and cleanse me from the things I've done wrong.  

For some people that's the essence of their relationship with God.  John Wesley believed that God calls us deeper, very much similar to the Disciples experience at Pentecost.  If you are familiar with this as described in the book of Acts, yes, it was marked by tongues of fire and men speaking in languages they had never spoken before.  Wesley believed---if you'll stay with me---that it wasn't so much about the speaking in tongues as it was the waiting on the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples were instructed, upon Jesus' departure, to wait.  As they waited together, they prayed.  Was the Holy Spirit present in this process? By all means, YES!  Did they feel the presence? Not necessarily.
For those of us who claim the name of Jesus and call God Father, we believe in God even when we cannot see or touch the One in whom we believe.  Many times we cannot see His presence in our circumstances until we look back.  As the Hebrew children finally left Egypt after the plagues of Pharoah, did they feel God's presence when they approached the Red Sea? Had I been in their shoes, I would have been chewing on my heart that was jumping out of my throat and into my mouth.  Even as they walked across and turned around to see Pharoah's army dashing into the path they had just left, it would be hard to see God at work!  Then the water came crashing down and drowned the army that had chased them from Egypt......THAT would be a moment of transformation.  
Like the Hebrew children, the choice is ours whether we cross the Red Sea and pitch our spiritual tents on the shore to settle there OR we continue forward, following God for the journey.  John Wesley followed deeply into the Promised Land, just as Caleb and Joshua encouraged. Will you go as well?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Image result for music lessons“Thomas loves to sing. Can you teach him voice lessons?” I have received this same call many times over the years.  Sometimes you can substitute piano in place of the voice request, but the question is essentially the same.  After learning the age of the student, I formulate my response based on the student’s personality, the parents and how disciplined I perceive the student and parent to be.  Generally---and this is where my opinion comes in, which is solely my opinion---I would start piano lessons around 1st-3rd grade.  Voices lessons should start around 8th or 9th grade;  puberty and the hormones that activate in the body (especially in the vocal chords) can really play a large part in this!  Both necessitate practice at home.  If your child is to excel in anything in life, be it soccer, dance, baseball or music, they will need to devote time and energy to it outside of the lesson! Students of anything will be, at best, mediocre without practice. 

This week I got another such request and wanted to share my thoughts after 25+ years of leading choirs and in music ministry.  First and foremost, I am thrilled when any student is singing and wants to pursue music ministry.  It is a tremendous blessing to be involved and to use music as a means to share the love of Christ and have a gift that God uses to touch the hearts of people in unspeakable ways! Music is something that should be studied with an insightful teacher on a weekly basis.  My son (who plans to major in music education), Christian's, lessons are once a week and often times twice a week!

Let me attempt to put into words some of the things I've learned and seen that might be of help to you:
1.  To succeed in anything and especially music, you have to be willing to practice.  I would say at HS level, this would mean a minimum of 3-5 hours a week. Middle School, would mean 2-3 hours a week....split over the course of 7 days. At the college level, this means probably 3-4 hours a day, depending on your instrument.  Let me further specify that when I say practice, this is on actual lesson material.  Getting distracted and launching off into P/W music or something popular, while fun, does not help the student make forward progress in the art. You have to invest time, energy and brain power. Practicing generally "weeds out" those who like music and singing as a hobby vs. those who want to pursue excellence.
2.  Many P/W leaders have studied music very little, if at all.  With some this is obvious, others not so much so.  Care for the instrument that God gave them (and to those they work with) will also be a "marker".
3.  I lead P/W but I am a classically trained musician.  These folks are rare birds!  Most see it as EITHER classical OR P/W and tend to look down on the other side for various reasons.  My view is that God has called me to lead worship....traditional and "contemporary"....and in so doing, how can I offer Him less than my best? How can I dare offer to Him something that cost me nothing---whether it be money, time or energy or all of the above? 
4.  IF God is leading a student toward such a ministry, my advice is to train classically while continuing to enjoy a VARIETY of music and stay involved in church music. Classical training with a heart for prayer, study and praise is a win/win situation to lead in a variety of environments.  I may write a whole ‘nother blog post on just that topic.  It’s too big to pursue in just 2-3 sentences.

In looking for a music teacher:
1. Expect to pay $30-50/hour or more for lessons
2. Call First Baptist Churches in small to large towns and ask for referrals for voice lessons.  The Baptists have done a better job at music education than all the other churches in the world combined—especially the Methodists.  Christian's teacher is a retired Baptist Music Minister.  They often have studied music education at the college and graduate level and moonlight as a private teacher. 
3.  Insist on your student learning music theory, which includes scales, chords, etc.  Too often I have seen well-meaning teachers that are high priced musical baby-sitters: students learn 2-3 songs every 6-12 months that requires no work outside their lessons. 

Image result for money on fireIf your student wants to study anything, try private or group lessons for 6-9 months.  If they like it and take the time to practice without too much prodding, it’s worth it.  All students, young and old, go through difficult times where practice feels like more of a grind with no joy at all.  Try setting the timer for 30 minutes and practice at least that long; many times the biggest challenge is just getting started!  If your student is too busy with multiple activities to practice for one (or possibly all of them), they will never truly be a success.  Choose one or two at a time to focus on and pursue with passion! Continuing to chase a dream from your childhood through your son or daughter who has no interest is the equivalent to setting your money on fire.  Better yet, just give it to me!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I Fall Sometimes

King David is well known as the author of many of the Psalms we love and referred to as "a man after God's own heart." (Acts 13:22).  One day I hope that my kids and maybe my closest friends might refer to me as a woman after God's own heart---what a legacy!  But when you dig a little deeper, how on earth could someone like David be considered a "favorite" for God when he messed up royally more than once?  Truth be told, David could have focused on the failure and allowed it to rule his life.

Yes, David made mistakes.  He was definitely human.
He struggled with depression. A large number of the psalms he penned, starting with the 6th, specifically addressed struggles within and without.
He was an adulterer.  In 2 Samuel 11 chronicles how David saw Bathsheba, invited her to the palace and slept with a married woman.  Then...
In an attempt to cover up his adultery, he planned and insured a murder. In the same chapter, when Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant (her husband Uriah had been away at war), David instructed that Uriah be sent to the very front of the battle and the troops around him withdraw.  Sounds like murder and manipulation to me.  Sounds like original sin: seeing something you want and manipulating people and circumstances to insure your needs are met.

HOW on earth could this man be called a favorite, one whom God loved and cherished above others?  Yes, David was called at an early age.  He followed God and served King Saul, always choosing the high road despite Saul's attempts to pursue and murder him.  God honored that early calling and David became King over Israel.  He even overcame conspiracies from his sons who plotted to overthrow him.  But somewhere along the way, David got comfortable.  And he succombed to original sin: "it's all about me and what I want."

Enter Nathan, Prophet and Pastor to the King.  He is not here to pat David and the back and give him "atta-boys".  No, Nathan was there to deliver God's word that David had pure and simple MESSED UP: and while the King thought it was secret, it was not.  How many times have I done things in my younger years thinking, "it will never make a one will ever find out." Character is who you are in the smallest of tasks, especially when you think no one is looking.  When you think no one will find out.

David deserved judgement.  In reality, he deserved to die.  He did not deserve to be called God's favorite! The key is 2 Samuel 12:13-14.  When confronted with his sin, David confessed.  Yep.  He "manned up". I believe this act---and probably others like it---are what earned him the title we know him by.  David had faith in God and believed that God would save him even from Goliath; he loved God's word and showed gratitude as exemplified time and time again in the Psalms.  And last but not least, when he messed up, he owned up to it and sought forgiveness:  Psalm 51 is the prayer that came from David's heart.  If you have messed up like I have a multitude of times, seek the Lord and find comfort that you are not the first to need God's grace.  "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, O Lord, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me."

In so doing, you will find the same forgiveness that countless others have received. When you observe the depth of love and forgiveness God offers to you, you will see why David was a man after God's heart.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


It is widely accepted that this is a procedure done to infant males of the Judeo-Christian beliefs.  With that out of the way, I'm more concerned about how the Bible applies circumcision with our spiritual lives.  Maybe you've never stopped to consider this but I've been running this through my mind for about 6 months, since I first read about the concept.  

Circumcision was introduced in the Old Testament for several reasons, primarily to set apart those who would follow God (i.e. the Hebrew children) as a sign of their dedication.  According to Hastings Dictionary of the Bible: "Jewish teachers...regarded this as purification from obstinancy and imperfection.  The rite was regarded as a token in the flesh (symbolic) of God's divine grace in the heart (see Deuteronomy 30:6). To do so promotoes cleanliness, fruitfulness and avoidance of disease."

Stick with me.  Some Bible interpreters have actually used cleansing and circumcision interchangeably.  In Justifying grace, we invite God to circumcize our hearts to promote cleansing from sin and avoidance of  the same so that we can be fruitful in our Christian lives.  Circumcision is symbolic of removing original sin---the desire all humans inherit from Adam and Eve to be self-sufficient...wanting to look good/worshipping ourselves and our wants (pride).  The "flesh" that Paul often referrs to is original sin: the desire to be in charge, the desire to please self.  

When I asked God to forgive my sins --- my actions that drove a wedge between myself and His love -- He gladly and lovingly did so simply because I asked! Justification is a multi-layered term: 
  • when God forgives my sins, He makes it "just-as-if" I'd never sinned by forgiving and forgetting (Psalm 103:12), something God does easily but humans struggle with. 
  • If you're as old as I am, you know the terminology for margins on the typewriter: justification brings the text "into line" with the rest of the words. 
  • If brought up on trial, justification means total forgiveness of guilt and being regarded as innocent.  

Does justification mean you're perfect? That you never sin again?  No.  But that's a topic for another day.  


Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Lost Her Boob

This morning I was cleaning out my refrigerator.  Off topic in the first sentence? Stay with me---one thing leads to another.  As I was putting everything back into the 'fridge, I picked up two cans of ginger ale that were now very slippery with condensation and, when combined with my wet hands, promptly fell. One hit my toe just right and the other can slipped into oblivion and I gave up looking for it to concentrate on my bleeding toe. Until I put the cheese drawer back into the 'fridge.  Yes......  We have a cheese drawer.  That's a whole other topic, so don't go there.

The cheese drawer is the very bottom of my french door refrigerator and, thus, the last to be inserted.  But it would not close all the way, even after some "encouraging" shoving.  With a throbbing toe, I yanked out said deviant drawer to see what the cause was.  You guessed correctly: the second can of pink ginger ale.

Immediately I was transported back to one of my most educational life experiences. As a 19 year old, my first "real" job was working as an aid in a nursing home.  Back in the stone age of my youth, one did not have to jump through hoops to be certified for this or that.  We didn't do anything that needed special training for the most part.  It just required hard work, a strong back and .... stupidity or lack of fear---I'm not sure which one but I was special..... I possessed BOTH.  The youngest of five, I had never seen a dirty diaper, let alone changed one.  I had never babysat....and never wanted to!  To say that this job helped me grow up is a huge understatement.

I had a patient named Cleduth (not her real name, which has been changed to protect her privacy).  The dear woman was large: probably 5'10" and weighed approximately 170-180lbs.  She occupied space....I don't think she blinked and never responded to any verbal interaction or physical touch.  Her body was going strong but there was no way to communicate.  On this infamous day, I had just started my 3-11 shift and was checking patients for immediate needs.  Cleduth's room was about the half-way point on my hall and so far, everyone was good.  So far.

Because she was not ambulatory, Cleduth was normally dressed in a night gown.  Her guardian must have had a broken thermostat because Cleduth never felt cold but always had on a long-sleeved FLANNEL nightgown. The longest kind that covers your ankles.  Because she didn't move on her own, Cleduth would normally be put to bed after supper and then turned and propped with a blanket. Have you got a picture of this woman in mind? Even when moving from her vinyl chair to the bed, it was up to her caregiver to pivot and set her on the bed and then lay her down.  I say all this to lay the foundation for my faux pas.

On this particular, and so far very good and uneventful day, I came to Cleduth's room and smelled urine from the doorway.  Not good.  Unblinking and unphased, she sat on a thick cotton pad that had soaked up what appeared to be about 2 gallons of "output".  This was before the advent of disposable undergarments. Her flannel gown was also dripping wet.  I set about the task of attemping remove the wet accoutrements, clean the patient and replace with a clean, dry pad and gown.  It was a formidable job, as I look back; I was young. Stupid. As a bonus, I had no fear, both of which were previously stated.  Until I was about to pull her clean gown down over Cleduth's head.  That's when everything changed; fear choked me and stupidity made me panic.

Let me state the obvious.  If you don't know already, as you age, body parts do NOT stay in the same place. They shift. They sag.  Some parts just, well....they fall or drop.  Yes, especially boobs.  As I did a quick once over while re-dressing Cleduth in the gown, I noted that sag was not an adequate word at all.  Then I realized something was VERY wrong.  There was only one boob.  OH, LORD JESUS, HAVE MERCY---I LOST HER BOOB.

To say the least, I  was fraught with panic. "How on earth will I explain this to my supervisor? OR to Cleduth's family?" I stepped back and looked....yep, only one boob as I began rehearsing the phone call I would have to make.  "Good afternoon, Mr. Smith.  I hope you're doing well.  I'm your mother's care-giver today and I called to tell you she remains in good condition except for for one small thing.  I seem to have misplaced her breast."  I pulled her forward as she sat in the chair to make sure it had not somehow gotten caught behind her back or under the arm of the chair.  No such luck.

As I began to think how on earth I would address this issue with the shift nurse, it caught my eye.  No, it was not the lost boob.  It was a meticulous and surgically straight line exactly where her left breast would have -- or should have-- been. It was very faded but definitely there. If she could have responded, I don't whether Cleduth would have laughed or cried.  I only shook my head in disbelief.

I blew out the breath I had been holding for what seemed like hours and pulled the clean gown back down to her ankles, thankful neither of us had lost anything that day---her boob or my job.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

EASY Chicken Noodle Soup

EASY -- PEAZZY Chicken Noodle Soup

If you haven't already cooked your chicken, check out the previous blogpost on doing so.  If you have some left-over Chicken or Turkey, use it!  Please remember that when possible, I cook in bigger portions in order to freeze for later use.  You are welcome to reduce the recipe by half and make it managable.

1 Stick Butter (Yes, butter!)
1 Cup Celery, Diced
1 Cup Carrots, Diced
1 Cup Onions, Diced
2 Bay Leaves
8 Cups Chicken Broth (2 large boxes)
8 oz. Noodles (I used the kind to the right)
3-4 Cups Cooked Chicken, Cubed

Optional: Cilantro, Basil, Parsley:
If using these dried, use about 1 teaspoon of any or all three.
Fresh? Use 1-2 tablespoons.

Celery, Carrot, Onion
Melt Butter in large, heavy  pan.  Let me detour briefly to say I bought a large enamel coated, cast iron  dutch oven and it is my FAVORITE EVER.....except it weighs about 80 lbs.  Not really, but it feels like it. 
Once the butter is melted, add celery, carrots, onions and saute until vegetables are tender, approximately 5-10 minutes depending on the level of heat you're using.  I also add salt and pepper at this point.  A couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper.

Once vegetables are sufficiently dead/soft, Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for noodles.  Let simmer for awhile, depending on how soon you need to serve it!  About 10 minutes before serving, turn heat to medium high and add noodles to soup.  Too thick? Add  little water.  Caution, do not overcook the noodles as they will be nasty.  I would not cook them more than 10-15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and move to a cooler part of your stove.

If you chop the vegetables ahead and your chicken is already cooked, this could be ready to serve in about 30 minutes.  Not bad for an easy, homecooked meal, especially on a cold winter night when your family might be feeling puny.  There are healing properties in Chicken Soup!

Left-Overs are great or, as I said before, freeze them to use later.

Cooking Chicken for a Variety of Recipes

I'm an easy woman.  Well, that doesn't sound right!  I like to keep things EASY and simple!  One of my favorite things is to buy bulk chicken breasts on sale and cook them ahead to use for a variety of recipes,  This is right up there next to brain surgery. NOT!  If you are intelligent enough to make it to the grocery store and purchase your own food, you can do this.  If I continue to post this kind of stuff (does anybody need it? want it?), I may rename the blog something like "Never Cooked Before" or "Learn From the Village Idiot".  :)

Equipment Needed:
Crock Pot
If you don't have a crock pot, you can still do this....get the heaviest pan you own and put it on the stove! A crock pot is just that the easiest way.

Large Package SKINLESS, BONELESS Chicken Breasts (I purchase family size that has 6-9 breasts in it)
Water: Approximately 1-2 Cups

Strain the broth to get that
 foamy, yucky, bloody
stuff that turned white when cooked.  
First, I have the "Big Mama" Crock Pot that is like 6 quarts;  this allows me to double this recipe. My hint right here: if you can double a recipe and freeze enough for at least one meal AND you have room in your freezer, you are an idiot not to save yourself some time! Double when possible.

Rinse chicken breasts and throw in crock pot. This does not have to be pretty or artistic.  As long as they are mounded altogether in one spot but spread relatively evenly, you can't go wrong.  Add water. IF YOU WANT, you can add salt/pepper but I don't.  Totally up to you. Turn on low and cook 6ish hours. I go to the grocery in the evening, and then put them in the crock pot when I get home and they cook overnight.  If you're cooking on the stove top, choose a pot that will allow you to cook the chicken--with water added--- and still have room to stir if you want. Cook until meat is done: no longer pink inside and juices run clear if you cut into it.  This is good!
Chicken Broth! I know what
you THINK it looks like!

Remove Chicken from crockpot and allow to cool. While cooling, pour broth in pot through a strainer to remove that nasty, foamy white stuff!  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE BROTH!

Always label before freezing so you
are sure what you're pulling out.
When I take Chicken out of the crock pot, I put it on a big plate or cutting board so that I can use this same thing as I pull it apart and drop the meat into the plastic bags from here.  The more you can spread out the meat on the plate or cutting board, the quicker it will cool! The chicken be chopped or just pulled apart. After cooking it that long, it will pretty much fall apart.  If you choose to cut it, think of cutting 1-2" across the grain of the meat. According to the size of your family (or just you) place pulled chicken in quart size zipper bag. For my family, this is approximately 3 cups per bag. Pour a small quantity of chicken broth into bag before sealing and pressing extra air from the bag.  Label and put in freezer for future use.  Still have broth to use? Throw it in a zipper bag and freeze it to make Chicken Noodle Soup!
Ready for the freezer!

 Coming next: Recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup.  Easy--Peezey!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Holiness in the Wesley Hymns

John Wesley encouraged his followers to seek holy, perfecting love.  This was a love that Wesley emphasized by teaching and embodied by example: in the Old Testament, through God the Father, as He attempted time and again to seek relationship with sinful man; in the Gospels, through God the Son, who gave Himself to a world that was, and remains to this day, His enemy; and finally throughout the New Testament with the gift of the Paraclete. 
John and Charles were born the sons Samuel and Susanna Wesley of Lincolnshire, England. Father Samuel was a busy priest at Epworth who left the majority of the child rearing to Susanna.  Both men were educated first at Westminster then at Christ Church Oxford. John joined Charles and some friends in what became known by mockers as the “Oxford Holy Club” because of their mutual commitment to study scripture daily, live holy lives, be faithful in private devotions and actively visit those in prison.  John recalled this time in their lives uniquely:
In 1729, two young men reading the Bible, saw they could not be saved without holiness, followed after it and incited others so to do.  In 1737, they saw that holiness comes by faith.  They saw likewise, that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was their point.  God then thrust them out, utterly against their will to raise up a holy people. (Asbury Journals)
Justo Gonzales wrote: “As a pastor in Georgia, he failed miserably, for he expected parishioners to behave like the ‘holy club’…Charles was disappointed with his own work on this trip and decided to return to England. But John stayed on, not because he had greater success but because he refused to give up.” (p. 266). During these formative years, John Wesley had been the Moravians. Their confidence and assurance in God’s salvation despite life-threatening circumstances caused John to re-examine his own life and find it lacking.  History marks May 1738 as a turning point for both John and Charles. Some would term their experiences as conversion, others as a second work of grace in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I propose that the distinct terminology of this experience matters not nearly so much as how the Spirit of the Lord broke into their lives to use them to reach their own countrymen and eventually to the corners of the earth. 
A fire was sparked in the Wesley brothers in May of 1738 that would turn upside down their own faith and, as I submitted previously, for the faith of a good portion of the English speaking world.  Because of the Holy Spirit’s work, John and Charles perceived the Spirit’s leading them to spread the gospel outside of the physical church walls.  At the encouragement of their Holy Club colleague, George Whitefield, John warmed to the idea of field preaching.  While the Church of England served the middle and upper classes with spiritual training, it effectively closed out the lower castes.  Because of this inequity, many of the working class were without any spiritual direction.  Whitefield, and eventually the Wesley brothers, preached salvation to this hungry group of people and met great success, a stark contrast to what appeared to be their fruitless outreach to the colony of Georgia. 
George Whitefield differed from John and Charles in that he clung closely to preaching merely salvation to the masses.  This was momentarily effective, drawing the attention of thousands into saving grace; however, it also left many who wished to change languishing in -- or returning eventually to former lives of sin.  This is where the Holy Spirit set John and Charles aflame, effectively utilizing them as kindling to what became the roaring fire of the Methodist Movement.  John, aided closely by his brother, Charles, organized those converted into societies, bands and classes of accountability who would together worship and grow in holiness. In these societies, men and women were challenged to turn not only from sin but toward God, through scripture and living the life of grace. John, the elder Wesley, was so attuned to the necessities of public worship that in the 1761 publication of “Select Hymns”, he gives seven very basic directions for singing to the Methodists that are included to this day in United Methodist hymnals:

       I.          Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please
     II.          Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
   III.          Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  IV.          Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
    V.          Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  VI.          Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
VII.          Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven. (United Methodist Hymnal, vii)

These rules further aided the Wesleys in teaching singing and specifically singing scriptural holiness with their followers. While the Church of England’s order of worship encouraged choirs, soloists and special ensembles, Wesley’s revised orders encouraged the voice of the congregation: “Methodist Singing was decidedly congregational.  In corporate worship, efforts were to be made to ensure the greatest level of participation.” (Tucker, 159) 
A generous measure of Wesley’s legacy to the Methodist Movement was an emphasis on worship and most especially the encouragement of singing!  While John Wesley’s name headlined the Methodist movement, younger brother, Charles, was considered the hymnodic genius.  The Center for Studies Wesleyan at Duke University states:
Scholarly study of Charles Wesley has been hampered by the absence of a reliable and accessible standard source for his published verse. The original works published during his lifetime are quite rare, scattered among research libraries. …..This collection gathers the nearly 4,400 distinct poems and hymns published during Charles Wesley’s life that scholarly consensus traces to his pen. (Duke website).
The reference to 4,400 poems and hymns of Charles Wesley encompasses only those texts that were published and directly attributable to him.  It is widely agreed that he penned 6,000-9,000 hymns and poetic texts during the course of his life. It is generally accepted that John frequently translated many hymns for the people called Methodist but rarely composed original hymn texts.
John and Charles were successful in utilizing the ever increasing amount of hymnody to teach both scripture and their unique doctrine of Christian Perfection.  “Perfection” was the term John Wesley chose to characterize holiness based upon Matthew 5:48, which is reflective of Leviticus 19:2; The idea that Wesley taught through the scriptures:  God’s command to be holy or perfect. This is not be confused with the dictionary definition of perfection: completely correct, void of flaws. John Wesley believed that the power of God calls us (prevenient grace), saves us from our sins (justifying grace), and fills us with the love of God (sanctifying grace).  Because God is capable of both forgiving and forgetting our sin (Psalm 103:10-14), Wesley saw the potential as outlined in the scriptures to live free from the constraints of sin. “By perfection, I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God, and our neighbor, ruling our tempers and actions….I do not include an impossibility of falling from it, either in part or in whole….and I do not contend for the term sinless.” (Wesley, p. 446) 
If[D1]  a believer chose to follow Christ and live in the power and forgiveness each day, he could in essence, return to being made in the image of God, lost when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden.  “The Spirit keeps stirring…. Christians on the wave-length of the Spirit to see their own faults, see needs around them, sense the urge to speak or be still, and grasp truth with spiritual insight. If we listen, He will develop in us a sense of propriety.  He gently shows us some area that needs correction, we must obey.” (Taylor, P. 192ff) Living in obedience allows God to reveal sin and to be forgiven and replaced immediately back into relationship with the loving Father.  

Wesley taught that genuine faith produces inward and outward holiness.  Jesus taught that true Christian discipleship requires loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving neighbor as self (Matthew 22:34-40).  Whereas Luther and Calvin tended to view perfection in the absolute sense (i.e. perfect performance), Wesley understood it in a theological sense as having to do with maturity of character and ever-increasing love for God.  The New Testament word “perfection” translates from a Greek term that means maturity or completion: it does not mean flawlessness. (Anderson)
The Wesley brothers did reach people for Christ and discipled them effectively through the means of music.
In order to implant Methodist teaching in the minds and memories of the people, the Wesleys had for many years incorporated hymn-singing into their services….Singing also gave the believers an opportunity to testify to their shared spiritual experience. Wesley warned against “formality” in singing—the complex tunes that are not possible to sing with devotion…the repetition of words that shocks all common sense and ‘has no more religion in it that a Lancashire hornpipe.’ (Heitzenrater, P. 231)
While John and Charles Wesley’s illumination of scripture changed the world in powerful and pure ways through teaching, preaching, hymnody and living holy lives, I wish now to zoom our focus specifically on perfecting love and the implication it brings to the Christian life.  “The doctrine of entire sanctification contends the believer can be victorious over sin.” (Robb, p. 50). This is completed, according to John Oswalt, in large part through four steps:
(1) We must remember again that there is nothing we can do to make  God love us any more than he does at this moment.
(2) Remember that the holy life is not performance, but a new set of attitudes and a new way of responding to God’s love. 
(3) Deal with failures real or perceived [by] distinguishing between sin and temptation to sin. 
(4) Self-understanding, realizing the potential for godliness that becames our upon accepting Christ can go on without the hindrance of inner rebellion. (Oswalt, p. 195ff)  

Indeed, the best known Charles Wesley hymn is “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (UMH #57), written in 1739 to commemorate the first anniversary of his conversion and published in 1740 in the Hymns and Sacred Poems under the title “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion”. The fourth stanza states cle­arly:  He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free;  his blood can make the foulest clean; his blood availed for me.

Charles Wesley’s grasp of scripture, coupled with the poet’s gift and the need to teach new converts how to grow in grace, defending themselves against an unseen enemy is clearly seen in “I Want a Principle Within” (UMH#410).

I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear,
a sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near.
I want the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire,
to catch the wandering of my will, And quench the kindling fire.

From thee that I no more may stray, no more thy goodness grieve,
grant me the filial awe, I pray, the tender conscience give.
Quick as the apple of an eye, O God, my conscience make;
awake my soul when sin is nigh, and keep it still awake.

Almighty God of truth and love, to me thy power impart;
 the mountains of my soul remove, the hardness of my heart. 
O may the least omission pain my reawakened soul,
and drive me to that blood again, which makes the wounded whole.

Speaking directly of perfection and consuming, holy love, Charles penned five verses in “O For a Heart to Praise my God” (NNU website), which allude to the social holiness element of perfection that the Wesley brothers saw as an integral part of a holy life:

O for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free!
A heart that always feels thy blood, so freely spilt for me!

A heart resigned, submissive, meek, my dear Redeemer’s throne,
Where only Christ is heard to speak where Jesus reigns alone. 

A humble, lowly, contrite heart, believing, true, and clean,
Which neither life nor death can part from him that dwells within.

A heart in every thought renewed and full of Love Divine,
Perfect, and right, and pure and good, a copy, Lord, of Thine.

Thy tender heart is still the same, and melts at human woe;
Jesus, for Thee distrest I am, I want thy love to know.

I must in good conscience admit that Charles and John, like typical brothers, did not always agree on every point.  In fact, they often disagreed, including over the issue of perfection. “Charles was also prone to self-depreciation and tended to set his expectations too high, claiming in regard to entire sanctification ‘all the struggle then is over. I wrestle not.’ At times he expressed a morbid view of life.  He was influenced throughout his life by the mystical writers.” (Reasoner, p. 65).  An example of this thought process is found in “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (UMH#384):
Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling; all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest. 
Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.

Charles would, at times, personify himself as the character in a Bible story and make it his own, as he did in “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown” (UMH#386), which encompasses Genesis 32:24-32 as Jacob struggles with God only to find that as the morning breaks, “thy nature and thy name is (Universal) Love.”
Another hymn speaks of justification, perfection and action to be God’s agents in the current world, “Eternal Son, Eternal Love” (Hymnal ???):
Eternal Son, eternal Love, Take to thyself the mighty power;
Let all earth’s sons thy mercy prove; Let all thy saving grace adore.

The triumphs of thy love display; In every heart reign thou alone,
Til all thy foes confess thy sway, And glory ends what grace begun.

Spirit of grace and health and power, Fountain of light and love below,
Abroad thy healing influence shower,  O’er all the nations let it flow.

Inflame our hearts with perfect love; in us the work of faith fulfill,
So not heaven’s host shall swifter move than we on earth, to do thy will.
  A little known hymn, “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose” (UMH #153) takes on both themes, victory over sin and holy love:
Thou hidden source of calm repose, thou all-sufficient love divine,
 my help and refuge from my foes, secure I am if thou art mine;
and lo! From sin and grief and shame I hide me, Jesus, in thy name.

Thy mighty name salvation is, and keeps my happy soul above;
 comfort it brings, and power and peace, and joy and everlasting love;
to me with thy dear name are given pardon and holiness and heaven.

In want my plentiful supply, in weakness my almighty power,
in bond my perfect liberty, my light in Satan’s darkest hour,
in grief my joy unspeakable, my life in death, my heaven in hell.

John and Charles Wesley espoused the idea that there is no holiness without social holiness.Holiness itself implies an awareness of and sensitivity to the social implications of the Gospel.
There was great concern for the poor and disadvantaged among early holiness people. They knew nothing of the separation between personal piety and social concern that has marked the evangelical church of the last half-century.” (Purkiser, 5.I)  While not nearly as well known, this text of Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou Holy God, and True” outlines social holiness in verses 3-5 below:

Be to every sufferer nigh, hearing not in vain,
of the widow in distress, of the poor, the fatherless:

Raiment give to all that need, the cry to the hungry furnish bread,
to the sick now give relief, sooth the hapless prisoners’ grief:

Love, which wills that all should live, Love, which all to all would give,
Love, that over all prevails, Love, that never, never fails.
Refrain: Love immense and unconfined, Love to all of humankind.

John Oswalt aptly states: “So why does God want to make us holy? So that, forgetting ourselves and our comfort and our prerogatives, we can handle the precious lives of those around us with clean hands.  Like the manna in the wilderness, if we try to keep our holiness for ourselves, it will grow sour and rancid in us….holiness is not an end in itself so that we can revel in our own purity, but it is for the sake of others. God’s reply, down through the ages, must reply  ‘You must be holy, because I am holy’ is not a demand, but a wonderful offer.” (Oswalt, p. 197ff). 
The unique doctrine of perfecting, holy, consuming love is captivatingly spoken of in “Jesus, Thine All-Victorious Love” (UMH#422)
Jesus, thine all victorious love shed in my heart abroad;
then shall my feet no longer rove, rooted and fixed in God.
O that in me the sacred fire might now begin to glow;
burn up the dross of base desire and make the mountains flow!
O that it now from heaven might fall and all my sins consume!
Come, Holy Ghost, for thee I call, Spirit of burning, come!
Refining fire, go through my heart, illuminate my soul;
scatter thy life through every part and sanctify the whole.

Through the gift of perfecting love, our eyes are opened to the needs all around us.  We are enabled to see the needs of others and especially our great need of a Savior who forgives.  Shoe-horned into the middle of Luke, Jesus proclaimed unapologetically: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:37-39).  This is the Wesleyan perfection--- If we are ruled by love, redeployed by the Holy Spirit to share this holy love, God will use this as an unstoppable force for good.
Routley goes so far as to say that Charles did not write the majority of his texts to be sung in a congregation but primarily by soloists and trained choirs.  The popular tunes of the day were from secular operas; while this music literature was attractive, it was largely unsingable by the average lay person.  “[Charles] wrote what John wanted: hymns for the devout in class-meetings, and hymns for the heathen in the fields where their open-air preaching was done.  He would write very simply: he could write in remote and complex phrases; he could do something as clear and captivating as the text which underlie ' Hark, the Herald Angels sing’, and something next day perhaps, as allusive and contemplative as ‘Come, O Thou Traveler’.  But while many of his hymns make first-rate congregational material, they were mainly solos….even when the words are universal and communal, the music was of the kind inspired by Handel and the lesser opera-composers of the 1730s.” (Routley, p. 40)  Largely, his hymns written for congregational use were 1-2 verses, so that they could be sung by their followers and particularly easier to learn and memorize doctrine for even the simplest minded saint. 
Hardly any of this music is in general use now; It is because hymn singing now is so different from what either (Isaac) Watts or the Wesleys knew that we are not most familiar with the most ‘public’ of Wesley’s hymns At present the Wesley hymns are mostly for reading and meditation and perhaps the occasional solo or choral piece rather than for the congregational singing we are now accustomed to.  Meanwhile we can just notice the exquisite sensitiveness and insight which enable him so accurately to portray the silence of heaven, the joys of penitence and the guiltless shame.  (Routley, p. 41)  

Should the baby be thrown-out with the bathwater if they are considered outdated or even inaccessible?  Timothy Tennent’s words from the New Room Conference relate: “Wesleyan Christianity is still applicable because it does not focus solely on justification.” (Tennant)  While the Wesley Hymns provide a rich heritage and backdrop for our faith, I don’t believe John or Charles would want us to focus on any hymn text as the object of our faith.  They would, however want us to keep keen focus upon the greatest commandment: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, loving our neighbor as ourselves, everything else will fall into place.  In so doing, how can we keep from singing?