New Year, New Directions, New Hopes, Old Foundations

If holiness is the music God hears and a broken heart the sacrifice He honors, let us turn aside our eyes each morning and be moved by the cross.
And each night in the coming year, let us give thanks and worship Him, Who faithfully and patiently watches and keeps, and never fails to zealously love us.
“Transform us Lord, these coming days, as we wholly desire to know You more, and more, and grow in Your grace to trust more fully in Your ways. This is my prayer me, Your Church, Your Bride—and for all who choose to draw near and abide.

This is the closest thing to a New Year’s resolution. (The picture is perhaps photoshop but it’s perfect in its illustration!)

I remember the first time the Lord put on my heart, “You’re a worship leader.” It was many, many years ago when my second child was in a baby seat.

I thought I had an image of what a “worship leader” was to be, but God had plans way beyond my imagination. Through the course of over 30 years, marriage, pregnancy, chronic laryngitis, children, teaching, serving, moving, sickness, and recovery, and the beauty of brokenness, God has shown me,

“Toni, to ‘lead in worship’ is simple and true. Look to Me. Talk to Me. And Believe Me and My Word, through and through, no matter the rough terrain, the pain, I wash all the stains. Look to the cross, and lead others there—children, and hurting, and feeble, and doubting. Talk of Me and pray, I will strengthen and empower.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself, John 12:32. 

So, to begin a new year with old foundations laid, I set out to frame God’s Word, powerful and true:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth, Psalm 46:10.

In the stillness, I return to my beginning with

Jesus. Old words, prayerful songs, I pray I will remember and consider the whole year long.

It seems easy, yet not—to let sound out on these words so sweet. The reality is, . . . these thoughts are difficult to speak,  in truth and honesty.
The Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, He knows my heart, He sees. He knows and understands the wrestling.
As a child, I want to open up my voice. Will you join me? Not reluctantly, but the best we can today, faith-ful-ly?
“Open my eyes, Lord. I want to see Jesus. To reach out and touch You, And say that I love You. 

Open my ears, Lord, and help me to listen. Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.

To mean these words, with all my heart, soul, and mind, I need help from Him, but I believe. Help me grow to believe more, . . .

In His time.
In His time.
He makes all things beautiful,
In His time.

Lord, please show me everyday,
As You’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

Lord, our lives to You we bring
May each song we have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time.”

I never thought a worship leader could lead with a pen. But I hope and pray that I have put a song on your heart to sing to Him!

“Dear Lord, Open my, (our) ears, open my, (our) eyes, help me, (us) to trust that You will make all things beautiful, in Your time. In Jesus name, I, (we) pray, Amen.”


The Best Gift I Can Give to My Kids

The best gift I can give to my kids, is first and foremost, to remind them, they are His. The Creation of the Father, and the Son. The Holy Spirit will continually speak to them about the Lord, when their hearts believe, and are soft and open.

Jesus is not only the giver of light and life, He is Light. He is Life. He is Bread, and all the rest. So, the best gift I can give my kids today, is to faithfully, and honorably, live and believe all this, but also, . . .

show them moment by moment, with all of my heart, faithful and honorable love for their dad. Yes, I believe the best gift today, that I can give our kids, is love and grace for the dad-of-all-dads!

I want to please God.

He says to me, “love.” I fail miserably time and time again, but each new day, He says, “My mercies are new. S e e k Me.

And He watches me fall. He watches me miss. And He forgives me new, as each day, His face I seek.

And He says to me, “Now

do that for others, as they miss the mark too. Offer grace. Offer forgiveness. Be patient and kind. Remember Me, and abide.”

And kids, you watch me, day after day, so easily offer this as I go on my way. But it is hard stuff to do as I walk through our front door. It is hard to honor and offer grace to the very one, that I said to God “I Do, for all of my days.” And for this, daily, I seek His grace.

How I miss the mark and fall flat on the floor.

(Forgive me, Mike.) Forgive me kids. I want to do a better job at offering love and all of this. So I seek the Lord and He fills and supplies. He is our Lord. He is the One we will both lift up our eyes.

So, I will start this all off with the word: Remember. It is good to look at pictures of beginnings, that we might reminisce. And kids, I sure hope you spend time praying for us both, as we need your prayers that we might faithfully keep our oath.

That we continue to bring glory to our Lord and our King. And that we love each other, day after day, faithfully. Etched on the inside of my wedding ring, you find the name Mike. His, has the name, Toni. We do well thinking on and remembering these things.

I love you kids. I give you a gift. A promise that I will give it my best, day in and day out to faithfully and honorably love your dad!

“Gory to God in the Highest. And on earth, peace and good will to all men.” Amen.



Christmas stress overcome by Hymns of Praise

Perhaps I play a one-stringed guitar. I write each day with a similar theme. To face each day of schedules and such, deep down inside my heart fights to dream.

To live where the joy of the Lord is my strength. To advance through each moment’s time having faith— it’s a stretch. 

Oh, how quickly life tries to get in the way. Tempted to lose it or accept defeat in the day.

And at Christmas, where inner desires and time seem to crash. Physical limits, traffic, and budgets bring duress. How do we escape all this restlessness? The mind is whirring, and the body screams: Rest!

So, I listen to the audio Bible in my fatigue, and 2 Chronicles 20:20 gives me focus again, to see. Before the battle, rising early, the King proclaims to the people, “Hear me.”

Believe in the Lord your God. He will establish your ways. Believe God. Put on a garment of praise. (This is the vision in paraphrase.)

Praise? To actually take a breath and speak it out loud?

Is this the proclamation of the King to me?  To overcome tensions, noise, traffic, and Christmas strife, is the Lord speaking, “Hear Me. YesPraise Me, now!

So I open my hymnal to a favorite Christmas Hymn, and I read aloud in obedience to Him, Joyful, Joyful we adore Thee, God of glory Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, Opening to the sun above. 

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!

My voice mumbles low with Henry van Dyke’s hymn, from 1907 to music from Beethoven. And I am lifted from where I was, only moments ago.

All the works with joy surround Thee, Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays; Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise . . .

Thou art giving and forgiving. Ever blessing, ever blest, Wellspring of the joy of living, Ocean depth of happy rest!

“All we like sheep have gone astray.”  The prophet Isaiah, in 53:6 prophesied.

And in a believer’s life, the battle still lies, and I go astray when I forget to put off fret and put on a garment of praise.
My battle becomes defeat when I become a victim of life’s circumstance. Confused, critical, provoked, and faith-less.

But “the sum of God’s word is truth,” Psalm 119:160. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” Psalm 46:1.
Jesus said, (paraphrased,) “I am life, I am the resurrection.”

His words bring comfort for sadness, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Do I believe John 11:25,26?

Do I believe Jesus?

“Will you still love Me?” He asks, when this world has beaten down every ounce of my faith.

What will I answer? What will I say?

I will respond, “I believe.” And choose to speak words of praise:

Mortals join the mighty chorus, Which the Morning Stars began. Father love is reigning o’er us, Brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife; Joyful music lifts us sunward, In the triumph song of life.

Changed this moment. Instructed this day. “Oh, dear Jesus, please help this forgetful sheep, when facing a battle or lost in the way, to take off the fearful and doubtful garments—and put vibration on the vocal strings, . . .

and allow to pass through them, words of praise!

Let it be. Let it be! Amen. We lift our Praise to Thee.”





Holidays can bring inside rain. The Remedy?

Holidays. Family plans. Thoughts of giving and sharing—overwhelm. Memories. The good, and the bad—stir up at times, a storm.

Christmas lights and music. Christmas movies and food. Along-side of  family needs, and neighbors’ crisis, and attacks of  the enemy. We are tempted to break down like a blown fuse.

Light vanishes. Darkness makes its move. Feelings and tired nerves leave heavy judgments to dis-prove. Busy-ness and time crunches cloud up our Holiday mood.

Then a song comes from no-where. A song to turn my head. I see the words and I read them. As if, God says, “Think on this, instead:

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.'”

Oh, how the Lord loves us. He is a present help in times of need. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are active and alive. God again and again, saves me, He saves us from life’s oppression.

He saves me from my self. From my doubt. He lifts my head to see. He uses words of old hymns and familiar melody. Somehow, it’s a mystery. God transforms me. O let the hymnal sing:

“O soul are you weary and troubled. No light in the darkness to see. There’s a light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free”

Thro’ death into life everlasting, He passed and we follow Him there. Over us sin no more hath dominion. For more than conquerors we are!”

It’s as if a wave of hope comes upon me. Everything inside begins to breathe. Words and music, and new songs begin to flow. God’s Holy Spirit directs my heart to sing. Time and time again:

Fall on your knees, O hear, the angel voices, O night divine, O night , when Christ was born. O night divine, O night . . . when Christ was born.”

It is night for so many. It is a time of great dismay. But, Christ is born. Right here, right now! He is come to be our help this day.

“His word shall not fail you, He’s promised.

Believe Him and all will be well . And go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

He’s the lifter of our head. He’s the light, the hope of heaven. He is our Immanuel.

The People Keep A-Comin’, And the Train’s . . .

The people keep a comin’ and the train done gone. Do you remember an old Christmas spiritual called, Mary Had a Baby? Today, I think on this St. Helena Island Spiritual.

It has deep soul and sweet simplicity: Mary had a baby, yes, Lord,
Mary had a baby, yes my Lord,
Mary had a baby, yes Lord,
People keep a-comin’ an’ the train done gone.

There is natural melody, even if the true melody is unknown. But, I can’t stop thinking about the phrase,  People keep a-comin’ an’ the train done gone.

There was a lot going on then. And there’s a lot going on now.This story isn’t only about the past, this story is about today, this very moment. Mary had a baby, yes, Lord.

So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up . . . out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to . . . Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, Luke 2:4.

OK, now it makes sense: The people keep a comin, but what about the thought, the train done gone?

The kids sing it so simply: Mary had a baby. Yes, Lord.  The familiar Bible Story, found in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 tells it plain.

What did she name Him? Yes Lord?
What did she name Him, yes my Lord,
What did she name Him, Yes, Lord, …

A virgin shall be with Child and they shall call His name, Immanuel. Matthew 1:23.
 Immanuel, God with us. Mary had a Baby and He is God with us. 

The people keep-a-coming, and the train done gone. Have we missed something. Have we missed the Everything?

The word of God is living. It’s alive. It rings true yesterday, today, and forever: At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. Luke 2:1.

We’re traveling here and there. Days are busy. We are occupied with important things. We are “counting” on many things.

Does this song bring about an urgency? Is there a “train” we might miss?

Do we really have time to seek out this Jesus?

 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

‘Mary had a baby, Yes Lord…what did she name Him? Yes,  my Lord… ‘She named Him King Jesus, Yes Lord, …the people keep a coming but the train done gone.”

Have we put Jesus in the barn?

Let us wake up to the sounds of angels. The birth announcement is made: Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid, Luke 2:8.

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” 

 A Savior has been born to me and to you.

A Savior has been born to save all the people of the world of sin. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.

The Immanuel is here.

That Babe left all His glory of heaven to be born in a barn and wrapped in a few rags for me, for you. Today, the story is true.

‘Mary had a baby, Yes Lord. The glory train is here today. Let us choose to get on, right now, for Love has come.

Mary had a baby, Yes lord!
The people keep-a-coming and the train’s all mine. I see it, and I’ve boarded, will you join me this time?



Who’s God Anyway? Let’s ask Him and see Who’s I Am

I Am that I Am, the Creator, the Provider, the King of all Kings.

I Am in the heavens, the oceans, the grass, and the air. I AM Spirit. Evidence of Me is seen everywhere.

I Am Father. I Am Son. I Am Holy Spirit, Elohim. I Am one God, but three. I Am great mystery.

Do you doubt? Are you confused? I Am greater than any darkness that might surround you. I Am God Almighty. I Am God Most High. Open My Book, that you might be touched by My Light.

Are you cold? Encompassed by darkness and harsh sounds? Or is it  silence that follows you around? I Am the Light of the world. I warm the heart. My love surrounds.

Believe Me now. Is there still delay? My grace is sufficient to be all you need, to bring a new start. I Am Who I say. I Am faithful.

I Am forever the same.

Are you hungry? I Am the Bread of Life. Come to Me and devour My Word. My Word is True. I promise comfort and deliverance. Ask, seek, and knock. I Am the Door, Come to Me. I will open. I will answer you.

You are more than body. I gave you spirit inside. Call my name, “Jesus.” I Am here. I am Immanuel, “God with us,” the Christ Child. I Am a present help in trouble, I Am by your side.

Faith is believing. Faith breaks through this moment of time. I Am able to turn water . . .

to wine.

I Am spiritual Bread. Spiritual Light. Spiritual day to help you endure your night.

I will sustain you, strengthen you, help you and hold. Believe Me?

This moment. Be Still and Behold.

I Am the good Shepherd. I gave my life for my sheep. I can see you. I hear all of your cries. Let deep cry to deep.

Faith believes I AM the Way. I AM the Truth. Faith is experiencing time and time again, that  I Am life. I Am the Resurrection.

I Am the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning the end. I Am gracious,

compassionate, slow to anger, . . .

I no longer call you servant. I now call you, friend.

This, and so much more than you can comprehend, this is,

Who I Am.

“And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14).

“I am the bread of life.He who comes to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:35).

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”), (Matthew 1:23).

“I am the door” (John 10:9).

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1). 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

“I am the resurrection and the life”(John 11:25).

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you,” (John 15:15).