Rain Your Mercy, or Some Music of Heaven {a new song by Jonah Werner}

Can you imagine the music of heaven? Check out Jonah Werner's new song, "Rain Your Mercy"

When you hear God sing to you, you usually know it’s Him. Because sometimes, you are dancing and you can’t stop. You don’t care what you look like and you spin and jump and you’re not sure if the song you’re dancing to is still outside yourself, or in. The song is a melody you hear, though–you hear it either with your ears or from some place deep inside. But one thing is clear: the music is in you now; it’s the only thing, truly, you can hear.

Sometimes, though, the music manifests as a feeling deep down. It presses in hard, so you feel a bit breathless–except your smiling, too. And the loss of breath begs no discomfort. Rather, it’s short and it’s sweet. The Holy Spirit is pressing in, and you wouldn’t trade anything for this feeling to go away.

And then the music rises, and your body is burning now, each bit of it. Your chest fans flames high and fast, and then your head is hot, too, and your arms have to rise up straight and your legs feel like buckling, but they don’t, and then they do. And then you rise again, and you stand, and you keep dancing–because you can’t do anything else.

When you hear God sing to you, He is close, not far away, not playing games or staring down from some distant shore, disproving. When you hear God sing to you, you are free and you are joy and you are yourself and you just have to dance and shout and sing.

When you hear God sing to you, you wonder if these sounds are ones of heaven–where music fills you and you can’t hold it in, even if you try. Because in heaven, you’re fully yourself now; you are not pretending anymore. You, the daughter God created, sings out who she is, knowing she is delighted in by her Father, her King, her Savior.

There will be music in heaven; there has to be–because, even here, on earth, God is singing. My friend, folk musician Jonah Werner, sings from the inspiration of the Psalms,

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness and let the bones you have broken rejoice! (Psalm 51:7-8).

Jonah is a beautiful musician whose heart sings joy when he gathers up the lost and offers them the hope of God. He writes songs that sing Jesus, that sing love, that sing hope, that sing your Father is here, He loves you, you are not alone. Jonah has spent more than a dozen years as a Young Life worship leader, and he has a new song, “Rain Your Mercy,” available to download on iTunes, that you absolutely don’t want to miss.

Rain Your Mercy, a new song by Jonah Werner

A few weeks ago, when Jonah sent me “Rain Your Mercy,” my daughter and I were in the kitchen, and we blasted it through the open windows in our home and danced all over the kitchen. “Rain Your Mercy” is a song I know I’ll sing in heaven one day. It’s music of worship, of a heart stretched out in song:

I will call upon  Lord, who is worthy of my offering. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy of my broken soul.

I will call upon  Lord, who is worthy of my offering. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy of my broken soul.

O let the name of the Lord be praised. Let it rain down hard on my driest days. It’s my highest call, and I’ve got no choice but to fall, and let the bones you have broken rejoice!

Open up the skies, open up my eyes, open up my life, and rain your mercy down.

I’ll be jumping and singing, letting God keep right on singing in my heart.

Sisters, keep listening hard now–you can hear Him, singing over you. So, let’s keep on singing right back.

How do you visualize yourself in Heaven someday, fully in God’s presence, in worship?

And here’s another post about Jonah I wrote, a few years ago: “When We Sing the Same Song”.

Finally, don’t forget to answer the 8 Questions and enter the 10 Book Giveaway!

Linking up with beautiful Kristin, #ThreeWordWednesday and Jennifer,#TellHisStory.

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8 Questions & a 10 Book Giveaway

8 Questions 10 Book Giveaway--answer this survey and enter to win 5 books for Christmas gifts!

Did you know this blog began, four years ago, as a for-fun experiment? Justin encouraged me to write as a way to connect with God. So, I did. And then we wondered if one woman’s yearning for God might encourage other women to seek God, too.

Community was what got this blog really rolling. After leading traditional women’s ministry at my church, I was tired of all the rules of conventional Bible study. I wanted to make room for the Holy Spirit to move.  So, I started my own group, and we called it My Girls. You can read more about My Girls here.

My Girls was a space of safety and of connection, of transparency and courage. We were women who gathered because we were tired of trying hard, on our own, and in our own strength, to follow God. We wanted to surrender everything getting in the way of hearing His voice in our  lives–and responding to His voice with our lives. 

In that space together, God reminded us, “you are My girls”. So for four years, You Are My Girls has been a place for Christian women to come and be reminded who and whose they are.

Because we forget, don’t we?

As 2015 approaches, I am looking ahead–dreaming big dreams for this blog. There are going to be some changes coming, and I want you all to be the one to spark the change.

So, I was wondering if you could help me make this blog even better by taking five minutes and answering the eight simple questions in the survey below. And then, as a small way to say thank you, I will be giving away a total of ten books (five each) to two people. These books are ones I’ve loved so much that I’ve collected multiple copies of them–and they have helped me grow in my relationship with God. Some of them I mentioned just the other day, in the post on my favorite books and sentences of 2014. What do you think?

Survey Book Giveaway #2

Again, your answers to these questions will guide me as I look to how I can best serve you, here. I am so grateful for you reading here, and I want to do the best job I can. (*The first question, your name, is your entry into the giveaway, when the survey is complete.)

Red Arrow

Here is the survey:

Thank you so much for completing each question! Your answers affect thousands of women! I am so grateful for your help!

I can’t wait to read your responses! And watch Friday’s post, when I announce the two winners of the book giveaway!

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My Very First Favorite Books and Sentences List of 2014

Favorite Books & Sentences of 2014. What are yours?

I collect words–words of beauty and inspiration and hope.

There are print books on most of the surfaces of our home–on the counter of our kitchen, on the table by our front door, our bedside tables, the packed shelves in our studio, where we play and laugh and work. Below are sentences I’ve underlined from some of  my favorite books I’ve read this year. Some are books I’ve read alone; some I’ve read in community.  These are sentences that have stayed with me, have moved me, have challenged me, have inspired me.

Check out these beauties below–and then let me know what you think. {And after you’ve left a comment, make sure you don’t miss the Amazon book deal I want to tell you about, at the very bottom of the list!}

Books that have changed me that I’ve read with friends:

The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst

The woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.

Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story, by Don Miller

Now remember, God wants to connect. And even though mankind walked away, God still loves us. So what does a perfectly loving being do when the object of His desire walks away? He goes after them.

Becoming Myself, by Stasi Eldredge

Daughter, Jesus recognizes you . . . His face is turned toward you in kind intent. You can come to him with your whole story. Everything you are as a woman and everything you are not. You can bring him your victories and your failures and your fears. He will withhold no good thing from you. He will not turn his face away.

Books that I like to keep close, so I can read again:

Home Behind the Sun, by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy

All creation resounds in worship like the tabernacle it is. For we encounter God within himself, Creator within creation. That is why I long for you, God. Your goodness eclipses the shadows, my shadows. I stammer and choke because I feel I am caught in a place for which I was not made. Yet you equip me to hum the chorus, to carry your brilliance–a shadow chaser.

Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World, by Ajith Fernando

Loving a person who has hurt us activates the love of God in a way that brings healing to our wounds and releases God’s provision of strength.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, & Everyday Prayer, by Micha Boyett

If prayer is mysterious and God doesn’t need my ‘performance,’ then maybe prayer is less about my words and more about the turning of my heart. Maybe humility doesn’t begin until we give up the performance.

Books on my bedside table right now:

Favorite Books and Sentences of 2014

Walking on Water: Reflection on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, by Emily Wierenga:

I’ve kissed a lot of boys. And you can tell about a kiss like you can tell about a good beer. I’ve had Pilsners. I’ve had Molson’s. But Trent’s kiss was a Richard’s Red–my favorite.

Jesus is Better Than You Imagined, by Jonathan Merritt

God doesn’t want to play a cosmic game of hide-and-seek. He wants to grow me, stretch, me, and teach me. When I accept that God’s quietude may mean He’s up to something, it frees me to embrace rather than resist the experience. and when I open my hands to the mystery of divine absence, I’m challenged to start moving forward in faith again. Could it be that His seeming absence is not a scourge, but a gift?

Found Art: Discovering Beauty in Foreign Places, by Leana Tankersley

As you may well know, foreign territory doesn’t only exist ten thousand miles away; we can find ourselves in unknown countries without going anywhere.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, by Shauna Niequist

I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, by Myquilyn Smith

Quirk is that last squeeze of lemon on the saut‘eed mushrooms, the zest of my home. Quirk brought me back to childhood, because I realized that the home I always dreamed of wasn’t one that was sophisticated and completely grown-up . . . The home I longed for was one in which I was completely free to do what I wanted no matter what others might think.

Books on our “book shelf” in the kitchen that we read at random times throughout the day:

Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society, by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy

Jesus shows us that true success, the kind God cares about, is the freedom of not feeling trapped by the rules of worldly success. And that freedom comes from obedience to the Father.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

Still, one of the most annoying things about God is that he never just touches  you with his magic want, like Glinda the Good, and gives you what you want. Like it would be so much skin off his nose. But he might give you the courage or the stamina to write lots and lots of terrible first drafts, and then you’d learn that good second drafts can spring from these, and you’d see that big sloppy imperfect messes have value.

On Writing Well, by William Zinser

Look for your material everywhere.

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon

Whenever you’re at a loss for what move to make next, just ask yourself, ‘What would make a better story?’

There is an Amazon Deal happening this weekend, for 25% off ONE print book, through December 14. Use code “BOOKDEAL25″ at checkout under the “Gift cards & promotional codes” section. This might be a good time to check out Loop, if you haven’t already!

What are your list of favorite books or sentences?  I’d love to read your list, too!

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What to Do With the Isolation You Feel at Christmas

Christmas tree huntingI have a lot to learn. About kindness. About being slow to speech. About being quick to love–particularly when it comes to extended family during the holidays. I am practicing love with the family I live with–Justin, and our three kids–and even Fulton, our insecure dog whose constant desire for my companionship has driven me (an introvert) into crazy-land more than a few times in the three years we’ve had him. But I crave a softer heart, a deeper gratefulness, for relationships God has brought into my life but I take for granted.

The holidays amplify our decisions regarding the role of relationships in our lives. Feelings of isolation are magnified even while we are encouraged to connect, even when we don’t feel like connecting or we just don’t know how.

Do we pursue connection with friends and family? Do we avoid connection with people in our lives who have hurt us in the past? Do we have people with whom we are close–or do we feel alone and abandoned? Is our mailbox filled with catalogues and empty of Christmas cards? Do we stay home with the television playing and the phone silent from no one having called?

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

In this independent-driven culture of ours that celebrates the success of the individual, we can forget how desperate we are to turn to Jesus for how to connect with others, for how to pursue community. But there is something about Christmas time that helps us to remember.

Christmas brings the invitation to celebrate the coming of a Savior who was born in a cave, amidst livestock excrement, in the ultimate posture of vulnerability, as a human baby. His parents, Joseph and Mary, leaned on their God with everything they had because they had nothing and no one else. Yet, there was only One who could satisfy their desperate need–for love, for companionship, for inspiration and hope in a world that is dark and cold and rejecting. And I have no one else, either. I have no one else on whom I can depend.

Only Jesus.

But I forget. I forget Jesus’ kindness and his compassion. I forget how He knows what it means to be alone and how He gives me courage to love people, even when I don’t believe I have what it takes to do it well.

I do.

And you do, too.

Do you find yourself telling your family members you love them but struggle to show it during the stress of the holiday season? Do you find yourself isolated because you are caught up in to-do lists this season–or, rather, you struggle to initiate connection in community or you are tired of rejection when you try?

I turn with you now, sister.

Let us turn our hearts towards the baby in the manger who was rejected by the world for whom He was born and sacrificed. Let us turn to the Savior who can bear our burdens and can lift us from our sadness and despair. Let us turn, in our busyness, in our isolation, in our mess, in our pain.

This Christmas, no matter how difficult the situation you are facing right now–let us turn to the King who knows pain and knows rejection and knows isolation, especially on the moment of His birth. In His kindness, He will teach us kindness–to ourselves and to the people whom He has given us to love.

You are not alone. Can we pray and lift each other up? Can we help each other remember?

Love to you, friends.

Jennifer

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Have You Gone Missing This Christmas?

To adore Jesus this season, I need to start with sitting still.

Find this beautiful print at GraceLaced. Don’t you love it?

We know we are invited to slow this season. We feel days stretched out beautiful and full, but they feel far away somehow. Like they are not for us.

We can feel terrible at resting, terrible at sitting and slowing.

Does it look like I am good at these things, from what I say in this space and how I talk about God?

Hardly.

I write from a deep yearning for Him. And I write from a desire for more of Him.

I write from knowing what it is like to experience waiting on Him. And I write from a place of missing Him.

I write from a place of knowing, just in glimpses, what it is like to be with Him.

And in this busy Christmas season, we can not even know we miss Him when we don’t slow.

Around and around we go.

I know.

Confession: from the time I wrote that last post–about slowing and listening for and seeking God during Advent–I haven’t sat still more than a moment or two a day.

I’m not kidding.

Well, I don’t count the time on the couch with Justin in the evenings, watching Elementary or Chef. I don’t count the moments sitting with friends and sharing about how choosing how we spend our time is hard–and how we mess up a lot but we know God loves us still.

There is nothing else like sitting in the stillness with my Father–yet I don’t do what I say. I do other things instead. Read scripture while on the stationary bike (yes, a good thing.) Write letters of encouragement to friends who are lonely (yes, a good thing.) Wind rainbows of yarn around styrofoam with my daughter to make wreaths to decorate her room (yes, a good thing).

But, what is the best thing for me? What does my Father want me to say yes to this season, this week, this day, this moment?

What is He inviting you into this Christmas?

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I haven’t done what I invited you to do with me–quiet down for 15 minutes each day, with not a thing on the agenda except to be with Him and think about Him and expect to see Him and hear Him.

I have gone missing.

Find me again, Father?

Please?

My dear sisters, I will be writing less through the rest of this month–although I know I will be popping in from time to time. I have a friend’s new music single to tell you about next week, after all! (I’m excited about that.)

But I will continue to show up on Facebook, particularly on the Gather Ministries page. Would you like to join me there?

In the meantime, I will try slowing again. There is a manger calling me close.

Gone missing? Maybe it’s not me.

O Come Let Us Adore Him, by GraceLaced

Do you love this print? My friend Ruth, of GraceLaced, gifted me one, and I had to show you how beautiful it is! You can find the print, as well as all of Ruth’s other’s beautiful art and prints, here.

How are you approaching the manger this Christmas? How can I pray for you? (Share in the comments?)

(Happily linking with Kristin and Jennifer–make sure you check out Jennifer’s awesome book giveaway!)

 

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Advent and What You Should Expect When You Sit With God

Leaves brightSun shines golden through gray storm clouds in California sky. We need this rain–replenishment for this parched ground. A squirrel tightropes across our backyard fence. I watch him pause and select berries from tree branches drenched and low. Water has been pouring from heaven this week, and we are grateful. Keep raining, God. Soften the dry land. Fill the lakes and the rivers. Let the creeks run, overflowing with drops falling steady and swift from your sky.

I sit amidst boxes of Christmas decorations not yet unpacked, thinking about what it means to sit with God. I consider what I expect when I am with Him. How does he show up? How do I know when I am with Him? If He is an invisible God, the Holy Spirit within us drawing us deeper to the Father, what do I see when I am with God? How does He manifest himself? How do I stay with Him, in His presence, no matter where I am?

During this season of extra-busyness, I can easily feel like a failure. To be a good Christian I am supposedly required to read an Advent devotional every day, do my best to decorate the house and boost up my hospitality. I am supposed to consider how to give to others, like Jesus did, have my heart be broken for the lost and lonely and the sad. I am supposed to listen to Christmas music and do fun Christmas-activity-stuff with the kids. I am supposed to be extra happy and not stressed and organized and filled with inspiration and gratitude for all that God has given. Oh, and I’m supposed to bake, too.

I want to do a lot of these things. I want to have a house sparkling with color and good smells when my kids get home from school.  I want to read beauty-filled words near a Christmas tree and watch the lights dance through fragrant boughs. I want to encourage people and speak truth and let the Father’s abundant love flood me so I overflow with his love to others. I want to walk into a room and be a blessing, remembering that I am a daughter of a King who has fought for my heart when He came as a fragile baby in the not-so-quiet-chaos of an animal-filled barn one night long-ago.

But how?

Rainy mess leaves

IMG_8114

solitary

Justin wrote this week about our family’s desire to serve and bless others this Christmas–to forget ourselves and receive Christ when we love others as much as ourselves. 

But how can I love another person if I don’t spend time with the One who is love? How can I love anyone this Advent season when I haven’t let God’s love to me pour in?

This Advent, there is one thing I need to do more than anything else: I need to spend time with my Savior, just us two. If I am to love anyone, especially during this extra-busy-Christmas season, I might need to strip everything else away And from there? From that place? I will have a lot of love to give. Maybe gifts will be given, maybe cookies will be baked, maybe lights will be strung, maybe carols will be sung. But one thing is sure: I will be equipped to love.

So now, here’s the question I get asked a lot: what does it mean to wait for God? What does it mean to expect him or pursue him? How does this invisible God manifest when we are sitting alone with Him?

Although we each experience God’s presence differently, I most often experience him when I am in a posture of listening for his voice. And to listen for his voice requires me to be quiet–my soul within me to quiet–so I can think of him. It is simply my choosing to think about God that turns me towards where He is.

chairs on wall

chairs on wall

rainy red and gold

The Holy Spirit in me is awake and stirring, waiting for me to turn towards God, waiting for me to want to be with Him, look for Him, listen for Him, see Him.

When I am desiring to be with God, and I am in a posture of stillness in his presence, He helps me be open to Him. Open to hearing Him, in my heart. Open to seeing Him, in my mind. Open to going with Him, in my imagination. I allow Him to cleanse me of distraction; I surrender to Him my presence, and He helps me be present to Him.

This Advent, in my waiting for Jesus, I will be choosing to be present with Him, thinking about Him, looking for Him, longing for Him. Practically, I will go to a quiet place each day of Advent, for 15  minutes or more, doing nothing but being with Him. And in that posture, in that active choosing and desiring to be with Him, I will see His face; I will hear His voice; I will be restored. I will remember who and whose I am.

How do you feel about Advent this year? What do you expect when you sit with God?

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Also, come on over to visit me at my friend Dolly’s place.

Finally, Friday is the last day to purchase Loop and receive six 8 x 10 art prints, for free! Click here for details.

Loop launch free gifts pin Christmas

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This Advent? You Have Permission To Stop Doing

Abby girl

It’s been a long time since I sat down and tried to not do a thing. One month? Two? Yes, I think the last time might have been in September.

Truly, I hadn’t sat in stillness with my Father for two months. And when I say “stillness” I mean sitting down in a place with no input (music playing, internet beeping, phone buzzing) and having no agenda except to be in the presence of God.

I know there is a lot to do now. I can feel it. The pressure to do is almost tangible, isn’t it? Write those Christmas letters. Wipe the cookie flour off the counter. Decorate the house. Call that friend. Make sugar cookies and smile the whole time while you do it.

Do.

For a few minutes a day, this Advent, can you join me in rebelling against all that pressure to do?

Contemplating stillness

contemplating stillness

IMG_8080

IMG_8081

IMG_8082

Even in this beautiful invitation to celebrate Advent, I can twist all the beauty right on out of this season and try to do rather than await, with open heart, the presence of my Savior.

Let’s keep this simple: will you join me each day, this December, and sit with me with our Father?

Just a few minutes.

Mute and turn off all electronics.

Turn your to-do list upside down.

Go to a room or a corner where you can be by yourself. (I know how this is tricky and nearly impossible with little kids at your feet, but be creative with the when and the how and the where. You can do this!)

Get comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Put your hands in your lap, maybe even with your palms open. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

(Of course, lying face down, I know, works for some of you . . . but just don’t fall asleep . . . )

And just wait.

Wait on God.

Listen to your breathing. And as you listen, let God draw you in deeper. Let your imagination go.

Let.

It.

Go.

He wants to show you where He is. He wants to show you where you are with Him.

Right Now.

I’m doing this.

Every day. Just a few minutes.

It’s going to be good.

This Advent

Are you with me?

*Join me over at my friend Kristin’s today remembering “I am desperate for you, Father, and this desperation is my strength.”

Also, don’t forget that this Friday, December 5, is the last day to order Loop and guarantee delivery from the publisher for Christmas. AND, if you order by December 5 and you email me your receipt (jennifer@gatherministries.com) you get 6 free 8 x 10 free arts prints and/or a free Loop audiobook (if you order 10 or more Loop books)! You can order at Amazon or lots of other places where books are sold. Click here to learn more.

Loop free gifts incentive (5)

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A Peek Behind the Curtain–An Interview about Loop

An Interview about Loop

Do you love interviews?

Do you love it when someone who is wise and beautiful and smart and brave asks you questions about something you care about deeply? Don’t you feel loved and valued and seen?

This is how Kirsten Holmberg made me feel this past week when she asked me some questions about Loop: What Women Need To Know, the new devotional for women who are eager to hear God’s whisper to their hearts. Consider the interview the back-story about Loop, of sorts. And I’d love for you to hear it.

Here were Kirsten’s questions for me:

  1. What is your hope for the hearts of the women who read Loop? For what kind of woman would it be a good Christmas gift?
  2. Is there a story you can share from one of your readers on how it’s already impacted her? Share some moments/situations behind Loop.
  3. Most great writing comes from a personal experience that prompts it. What was that moment/situation behind Loop?
  4. Do you have a favorite selection from Loop — one day that was most meaningful to you to write? Why?
  5. If you could sit face-to-face with your readers, on a cozy couch with mug in hand, what would you want to talk about with them?

Come on over to Kirsten’s place to hear what I had to say.

(And don’t forget the free Loop art prints you receive when you purchase copies of Loop by this Friday, December 5. You can learn more about that here.)

Are there any other questions you’d like to know about Loop?  I’d love to hear them.

Writing Loop

 

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