Clay Doesn’t Get to Choose


Jeromy Deibler and his wife Jennifer shared lead singing duties for the group FFH, sometimes known as “Far From Home”. They have been a favorite for many years. Their piano and guitar driven music with deeply heartfelt lyrics appealed to my aching heart on many occasions.   Their songs are relatable and fit well into my vocal range and musical style. They have been transparent about their journey from independent projects, to record deals, to solo shows as well as personal hills to climb in family, illness and truly trusting God for their next meal.

Through various social media platforms, they have shared stories of coffee shop writing sessions in Tennessee, life in the mission fields of Africa and wonderful stories of their children. Those stories caught my attention, because my daughter and theirs share the same passion for life and all of God’s wonders.

Recently in self-quarantine, Jeromy began a series of daily inspiration sitting at his piano, sharing music, scripture or just the words placed on his heart. One of these offerings was about frustration that events did not always turn out as they had hoped. He sang a song called “What if Your Best” which his wife usually sings, but this time, it was just him and his piano. He did say she was lying down on the couch and he did not want to disturb her (another reason I like him).

I had heard the song before, but never really consumed the lyrics until the background music and production was stripped away, leaving raw emotion. The premise echoes the prophet Jeremiah:

“Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.’” Jeremiah 18:5-6

The song asks if God’s best is less that what we hope for, is that good enough? Then a profound line hit me.

I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”
“I am only clay and clay probably shouldn’t speak.”

A sobering thought when I feel God could use the benefit of my opinion.

Running into a friend at lunch, we spoke of how some aspects of business succeed and some fail. It is all in God’s plan so we keep moving forward and changing.

“I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”

Then a blessing came my way that I was not expecting nor deserving, but that is why it is called a blessing.

“I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”

In the bible story, God sends Jeremiah to the potter’s shop where the piece he was working on was marred, so he took the clay and molded it into a new shape. We are but dust and water, mixed into mud, being molded into a new creation. When our molding becomes marred by sin and stubbornness, the Master Potter’s hands can take the pieces and refashion formless clay into something beautiful as He sees fit. For clay to be shaped, it must remain malleable, ready to be worked with.  We must focus on being clay, allowing our hearts to be re-created by The Creator.

Clay does in fact get to choose: Whose Hands we allow to form us.

Simply being clay in The Master Potter’s hands
And Blessed in Great Measure

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karate man

In a scene from the movie “Trading Places”, Eddie Murphy is recounting his arrest with “cops plural”. When asked about results of the fight, he said, “karate man bruise on the inside, he don’t show his weakness.” Hiding my weakness is something I do often whether karate induced or not, ignoring the “inside” bruises and pressing on.

A recent morning reading spoke of facing the clutches of uncertainty but offered these words of hope:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

At times, morning meditation can be a harbinger of what the day holds, but I tapped the snooze button and would deal with it in another 9 minutes. An early morning meeting and my nerves were getting the better of me, even though I had fared well in these negotiations hundreds of times. My commute was spent in silence, wondering if there was still chalk dust on my slate of errors and omissions. Once cleared by the Grace of God, I recalled previously granted wisdom of “Two eyes, two ears, one mouth – use proportionately.”

A quick check of my sword and shield and I was ushered in by an attractive young woman with a subtle hint of soft perfume. I took my battle position, but a lag in the proceedings allowed the slightly intoxicating scent to drive a wedge between my preparation and my focus. I deposited my two-cents worth to move things along and to clear my vision. The meeting concluded and I walked away a bit rattled. Battle wounds are not always a result of an exposed weakness, but simply being out maneuvered by the opponent. Evil searches for a soft spot and jabs you there. Apparently, there was a chink in my armor that I was unaware of. Grateful that God plugged up the hole until the battle was over, the task remained to find that hole and hammer it closed, ready for the next skirmish.

This brought to mind a song by Twila Paris called “The Warrior is a Child”. The heart of a knight in shining armor is not always as bulletproof as it appears. I am grateful that God sees all the bruises we try to hide, both inside and out, and can heal them with a touch.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Showing God all my bruises
And Blessed in Great Measure

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Dark Saturday

kneelingprayerThe Gospels give account of the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection; washing the disciples’ feet, the last supper; Jesus’ arrest and torture, His journey to the place of the skull, His suffering and death on what is known as “Good Friday”. Then there are stories of Sunday morning when the women approached the empty tomb, encountered Jesus and told the others what they had seen. We read about Sunday evening, as the disciples huddled into a locked room, the risen Jesus appeared to them. But not much is said about the Saturday in between.

“Holy Saturday” as it is called, was the Sabbath day and a special one as it followed the Passover feast. The disciples may have followed tradition at the temple offering prayers. They may have stayed locked away out of fear for their lives. The two men that walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus were returning home, so some may have scattered.

Easter Sunday is bright and joyful, and rightfully so. “Good Friday” is shocking and sorrowful, ending in darkness. Saturday is a mixture of dark and light, stuck in a gray fog. That Saturday had to be one of the darkest days ever known, second only to that Friday. Some tears had since dried and the shock of the crucifixion had set in. Fear, doubt, and disillusionment most likely ran rampant.

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, … ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:13-16; 19-21

These two had hoped for deliverance, but now doubted what they had heard and seen, abandoning their newfound faith and running away, possibly feeling foolish for believing such things. This must have been a common feeling. It is believed that Judas witnessed all the events that his betrayal caused, and hung himself sometime thereafter. A dark Saturday indeed.

Now consider Peter. The man who Jesus renamed “Petra” meaning “Rock”. He boldly pronounced that Jesus was the Messiah and stepped out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus, only to sink when fear set in. He said he would follow Jesus to death and drew a sword, yet denied Jesus three times in the courtyard.

“Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:74-75

For Peter, it was a dark Saturday, “weeping bitterly”.

One Sunday morning, I was playing a song I had written. Truths in song based on personal experience tend to resonate loudly, but can be dangerously raw. I began the song confidently, but in the first chorus, a phrase struck me in a way I had not expected. Tears welled up, my hands shook and my voice began to falter. I remember thinking, “I’m already a mess and the bridge has always been the hardest to sing.” I stumbled through the words; my hands forgot how to play. I cut the song short, directly left the church, sat in my truck and wept bitterly. Memories of past failures rendered my meager talent unworthy for God’s use. I could hear the rooster crowing in Peter’s ears.

Later, I sat at the piano, trying to play out my pain. Deep seeded emotion tends to block out the rules of writing and produces something creative, whether painful or otherwise. A melancholy melody began to form and drew me deeper in self-pity.

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:3

That’s where I wanted to be and lyrics flowed like tears. The resulting song ranges from failure and darkness to a cry out to God for wholeness.

“Plant me by streams of Living Water
My soul is dry and begun to wither
Wash me with water from the well that won’t run dry
Make me whole again, Dear Lord.”  – Make Me Whole Again by John Adams

Each time I revisit that song, memories of that time replay. I also get a chance to root out dead wood that has blocked me from peaceful waters.

Dark Saturday reminds me of Peter’s pain and of things I try to hide in the shadows.

On dark Saturdays
Make me whole again, Dear Lord

And allow me to be
Blessed in Great Measure

Struggling to My Knees

Staring as raindrops pelt my window, tapping out their rhythmic chant that seizes my aching heart. The drops gather and race past, carrying with them remnants of dust and springtime pollen.  Similar drops well up in my eyes and trickle down my cheeks as my hands tremble.

The day has been chaotic, a culmination of weeks of uncertainty. I have tried to be the voice of reason in this “Sky is falling” mentality. I always thought I was the one with the answers. The Holy Spirit guides me to breathe in and trust what I say I believe; however, things were spiraling out of control like a street performer juggling a ball, bowling pins and chainsaws, trying to toss more than his hands could catch. I closed my eyes, cried to Jesus with no specific words, and let the silence consume me.

Consume Me”. A song by the group “DC Talk” that was playing in the jukebox between my ears this morning. “Consume” – to ingest or absorb, to completely use up. The lyrics speak of burning flames invading my space. It is said that wildfire can engulf the forest and consume it. In the same way, the Holy Spirit can surround my heart and absorb the struggles.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29

“A kingdom that cannot be shaken. . . God is a consuming fire.” The group “Third Day” eloquently echoed this passage in song. “Flames burn deep in our souls and melts a cold heart of stone.”

These songs have always tugged at my heartstrings. As fire can burn wildly, the Holy fire inside can engulf all the fear and disbelief that I harbor as I try to control the world around me. I am reminded that I control nothing, and it is a hard pill to swallow. Praise God that He is always there to slow me down and remind me when I stumble forward without a grasp of His hand.

I cannot control everything and worries have a way of multiplying until I cannot hold it in. But, I can pray. Nothing grandiose or lyrical, sometimes no words at all.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Good thing, because right now, I have nothing left to pray.

Letting the Spirit Pray for me,
That we would be
Blessed in Great Measure

Keep Swinging the Hammer


In the midst of the latest crisis, I was reminded of the story of Noah. God had seen all the evil that the inhabitants of earth had become and regretted creating them. He planned to bring floodwaters and destroy all living things. Yet He found favor with Noah, a faithful and righteous man. He instructed Noah to build an ark and gather pairs of all birds and animals that breathed the breath of life. Keith Green wrote a wonderful song called “He’ll Take Care of the Rest” and rhymed how the neighbors laughed at Noah’s pet giraffe. Noah’s neighbors surely laughed and cast insults at the crazy old man. When the animals started gathering, they must have wondered what kind of zoo Noah was building.

Then it began to rain. At first, the people stayed in their houses. As the waters began to gather, they moved to higher ground. At some point during the next forty days, the higher ground was not high enough. I would suspect that the same neighbors that scoffed were calling out for Noah and beating on the doors wanting in. Noah could have taken an “I told you so” attitude, but being a righteous man, he probably struggled with the pain of what was happening around him. Yet he was faithful and continued to follow where God was leading. Time passed and he was placed back on solid ground.

In the current worldwide chaos, there is panic and fear, driven by those who feel impelled to promote it out of some need of sensationalizing. These reports are balancing against those in power who try to offer solutions to rapid growth of the crisis.

As fear and confusion reverberate in my ears, I turn to the truth of God’s word.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I accept that I fear, but in my weakness, the power of Christ rests on me. Therefore, I set my fear aside and continue to hammer out the ark I am asked to build, trying to offer some calm in the chaos. Yet, surrounded by a cacophonous chorus of doomsday-speak, it is easy to allow fear to creep back in.

Yet, God’s grace is sufficient for me and made perfect in my weakness. Lately, it feels like it is getting closer to perfect every minute.

The sky is not falling but it has started to rain, so keep building, just keep building, whether it be a global crisis or a personal battle that doesn’t make the 24/7 news cycle. Be the crazy old man that hears the voice of God and confidently keeps swinging a hammer. At some point, the masses will see you are working on something special and gravitate your way. I am so grateful that God put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant of Grace towards us. The door to the ark will not be closed again.

All are welcome to come in from the rain
And be Blessed in Great Measure


Christmas Lights before Turkey?

Thanksgiving offers well needed time to spend on “home” work instead of “work” work; a few extra days to pull out Christmas decorations and dust off the cobwebs. Most don’t take kindly to Christmas lights until the turkey is gone, the pie plates are empty and the balloons have floated down the streets of New York. I am one of those people, yet when the business side of my brain slowly faded into slumber, the creative side took a deep breath, exhaling fresh ideas for the upcoming season.

A solitary live oak tree stands majestically in our field, towering to the sky, its massive branches stretching out, casting its cooling shade, as it has for hundreds of years. On one side, the branches part in angular fashion, providing the perfect frame for a Christmas Nativity scene. Pieced together barn wood and a few lights create silhouettes of Joseph, Mary and the manger.

Envisioning the scene and pondering additions led me to the realization that field grass and weeds had overgrown the area. As the lawnmower trimmed the area to a reasonable height, it struck me that I was literally “preparing the way for the Lord” and “ making room for the Christ child”. I felt a little jab in the ribs by God’s sense of humor, as there was more here than simply leveling the ground as to not interfere with the lighting. The parallels began to settle in as a sobering reminder of places in my heart that have remained untended, weeds taking root due to sheer apathy, or pulling one weed at a time as two more sprout behind me.

In the midst of this lesson, a song came to mind, written by Michael Peterson and recorded by John Berry in 2000, called “My Heart is Bethlehem. The premise is to make room for Jesus in my heart, a humble dwelling made worthy only by His grace.

In that tiny town, some two thousand years ago, there was no room at the inn, no “proper” place for a child to be born. God chose instead, to enter this world as a child, in the lowliest of places, a dark and dirty stable, surrounded by animals. Yet His presence made the place so revered that shepherds and wise men traveled to see this King of kings.

Admittedly, there are corners of my soul as dark and dirty as that stable.

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12 – NIV

Not only does God see what we try to hide in the darkness, he makes the dark places bright as day, so that we are not overtaken by the shadows of sin. Jesus entered this world in a dark and dirty space, certainly nothing worthy of a king. In the same way, He is willing to come into our hearts, even in the dustiest of corners and light up the entire space. I need to spend more time cutting the grass and pulling weeds to make a place for Him.

Christmas decorations celebrating the coming of Jesus, displayed before Thanksgiving? What greater thing is there to be grateful for?

Thankful for the Christ in Christmas
And Blessed in Great Measure

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I Looked in the Pages

Lyrics to a song by Steven Curtis Chapman come to mind.

“These are the places I was sure I’d find Him I looked in the pages and I looked down on my knees.” Sometimes He comes in the Clouds – Steven Curtis Chapman

I was preparing music for Sunday worship. The readings were about prayer and being attentive in prayer. I recently heard wise words about recognizing “heavenly interruptions” and read about the need to take time, not only to pray but also to listen.

He says, “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 NIV

Song selection took some heavenly nudges to pluck my heartstrings, but it finally came into focus. Then came the question of a special selection. Something that would fit the sermon or just something that God needed to be said. Then, news that a family friend earned her angel wings, so the planning for her life celebration service began (I prefer not to call them funerals). More songs to prepare, but still not settled on the song for Sunday.

I looked through the pages and I looked down on my knees. I pulled out one of my songs from 2008 called “Million Promises” and the lyrics hit me as they did 10+ years ago.

“You said that we should approach the throne in confidence
but my eyes so full of tears I just can’t see”

Life has been coming at me hard lately, so that rang true.

“All I know to do is put my trust in You   Open up my heart and just believe.”


“I’d trade a million promises,  for one that I can keep
‘cause when it comes to sacrifice, my will is much too weak
When what I was has come and gone, and I’m left with what I am
Just a heart, a soul, one spirit Lord, is entrusted in Your hands.”

Ten years ago, all I knew to do was trust. Ten years later, it is still all I know. In that span, I am still weak; I have gained a few more worry lines, a few pounds and a gray hair or two (or more). I hope that I have gained a bit more wisdom, a bit more patience, and a lot more grace.

I am still trusting, still looking through the pages and still looking down on my knees.
And always Blessed in Great Measure

If you are at our church this Sunday, you probably will hear “Million Promises” (unless the Spirit moves me elsewhere).

If not, you can listen to it or some of my other musical offerings here: Million Promises

Listen to “Sometimes He Comes in the Clouds” by Steven Curtis Chapman here:


Prodigal Redefined

running2In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a son who asked his father for his inheritance. With his request granted he set off with pockets full. When the son had spent every dime on wild living, he became hungry. He even longed for the food that he fed to the pigs. His father’s servants have enough food to eat, so he would return home, humble himself before his father and ask simply to be a servant. This parable is known as “The Prodigal Son” and in some texts “The Lost Son”.

I identify with this son way too well. How many times have I ventured out on my own with pockets full of grace, only to end up broke(n) and hungry? All my treasures spent on raucous living, metaphorically aligning myself with people who would trade their integrity for a quick buck. I end up longing for the food I feed to the pigs (too many analogies to mention here, but that’s a story for another day).

In the midst of one of many journeys back home, I wrote a song called “Prodigal Heart”.

A Prodigal Heart that struggles with prayer
Running back home and yet unaware
You’re calling me back from the dark
Though I had fallen so far
Lord, can You heal all the scars of my Prodigal Heart.

I had always though “prodigal” meant lost, or foolish, or repentant, as in Jesus’ parable, so a “lost heart”, a “foolish heart”, or a “repentant heart” made sense. Our pastor pointed out that “prodigal” really meant extravagantly wasteful, so a “wasteful heart” didn’t have as much impact. So I packed away the song in the black hole that is the “re-write pile”.

Recently preparing for worship, the biblical text for the upcoming Sunday was the parable of the prodigal son. There are so many great songs in my arsenal to choose from. The mid 1980’s, Benny Hester wrote a song called “When God Ran” about the father running to welcome home his lost son. In 1999, Phillips Craig and Dean did a fantastic cover of the same. In 2007, John Waller released a song about how amazing it was that God “Still Calls Me Son”. Then I remembered that I had written a “prodigal” song. I dug back through the archives and among the song ideas scribbled on scraps of paper and church bulletins, I re-found “Prodigal Heart” from 1999, then 2007, then 2010, then now.

After nearly 20 years of re-writings, the memories and pitfalls that formed the original song came rushing back. Some of them I have overcome, some still linger. I thought about a “wasteful heart”. Time and age revealed that the “wasteful” definition was even more poignant than the “lost heart”. In this season of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, Hallelujah, we find that Jesus took on our sin and left it in the grave. But that does not give us a license to sin. Each time we stumble, it is another hammer strike on the nails through Jesus’ hands. When we turn away, we “waste” the Grace offered us. So the redefinition of “prodigal” is even more fitting.

The point of the story was not the “lost-ness” or “wastefulness” of the son, but upon the son’s return and humble apology, the father ran to meet him, gave him a robe and ring, and celebrated the return of his son who was dead, but now lives.

The parable tells us of God’s great love for us, how He sees us from afar, runs out to meet us and celebrates our return, when we come to our senses and turn back home. Amen.

Though I stumble, I pray not to be wasteful of God’s gift of Grace.
And to be Blessed in Great Measure


Listen to “When God Ran” by Benny Hester here
Listen to “When God Ran” by Phillips Craig and Dean here
Listen to “Still Calls Me Son” by John Waller here

Listen to “Prodigal Heart” coming soon to a website near you.

If you know similar songs or have a good story, let me know.

Keep the Change

coins-in-the-waterRecently our office staff went through a change. It happens. Change may seem inevitable, but not all change. As we age, our human eyes grow weak and hopefully our spiritual eyes grow stronger in faith and wisdom. For some of us, our hair changes. It either turns grey or turns loose. Our hearts change as seasons of emptiness and fulfillment run their courses. But what about our soul?

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Matthew 3:1-3

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11

To repent is to show remorse or regret for something you have done, or have not done. Saying “My Bad” is just not good enough. To truly repent is to feel enough regret to change directions, never to go back again. A lofty goal which we will never fully achieve until we sit at Jesus’ feet.

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “The Change”. It talks about letters on a bracelet, bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets. “But if God really lives inside of me, I’m gonna live life differently.”
“What about a life that’s showing I’m undergoing the change.”

Not fully changed, but a work in progress. John baptized with water for repentance and forgiveness. The baptized rose out of the Jordan River refreshed and clean, but truly changed? Or just changed for now.

I had a friend who was excited about being baptized in his church, and rightfully so.  The day was coming up as soon as the church could schedule it. At lunch that day, I flicked water at him and said “Why wait?” He was pretty disgusted with me for making light of it. I did not intend to cheapen this event, but I believe that if you are ready to be washed clean and baptized inside, don’t wait for someone to work you into their schedule. Make the change now. The church ceremony is a simply a celebration of the change in you that has already happened. But it’s not just taking a dunk in the baptismal tank, (or just a sprinkle on the head), it’s about really changing and “keeping the change”.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, Acts 3:19

And while it seems that everything will change, there is One who never changes.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Our heavenly Father loves us.
That does not change.

What should change is our hearts, to love others as He loves us.

And when that change happens,
“Keep the Change”

And be Blessed in Great Measure


Listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “music here.“The Change” or “The Change Live”