Anna's Alcove

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Category: Music

Bask in the Presence

“He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weigh of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of this afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful
You are and how great Your affections are for me.” 

“How He Loves Us” is one of my absolute favorite worship songs and it’s recently become my life goal… to realize just how much God loves me! Have you ever taken a moment to just meditate on how vast and how deep that love must be?

Let me tell you, it’s something worth contemplating 🙂

Ever since marriage, God has been opening my eyes and heart to the meaning of pursuing a love that never fails and what is actually possible when we live our lives in complete dependence on Him.

 

DSCN7908I recently joined the worship team at my church as a second female vocalist. Over the last few months, we have done two outreach events at different parks (one in Easton, PA, and the other in Quakertown, PA) and He has shown up every time. We just did the outreach in Quakertown this evening and I was told before we started that God was going to speak to me during our worship time. Of course that got me all excited and, sure enough, about halfway through singing I hear this voice in my head that said, “I love you, My child.”

Woah.

I grinned and kept right on singing, just losing myself in the worship and not worrying about the people who might be watching (which is a new thing for me, because a few months back, I would be super nervous about singing in front of people).

Then I heard this: “Just bask in My presence. Pursue me and I will do things that are beyond your wildest dreams.”

Imagine the tears of joy that welled up when the next song was “How He Loves Us:”

“And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
if His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.”

When God speaks, it’s not always a clear voice. He’s spoken to me in so many different ways – creation, His Word, a thought, books, photos, people – and this was just a crystal clear thought that came outta nowhere and stuck in my mind. I’ve been asking God to reveal Himself to me in new ways each day and He has! In Matthew 7:7-8 it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives and him who seeks finds and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

It’s that simple. All we have to do is ask.

God loves us. We are His special, chosen people who He wants to bless (1 Peter 2:9). During the short time that I’ve been on the worship team, He has opened my eyes to the true meaning of worship and how freeing it can be. It doesn’t have to be a routine, gotta-get-it right-every-time type of thing. Yes, you have to be good stewards of your talents and practice, but don’t get so caught up on the technicalities that you lose sight of the reason you’re up there.

As the author of Hebrews said in chapter 13:

“Therefore, by Him, let us continuously offer the sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of your lips, giving thanks to His name.” (vs. 15)

Make it a daily practice to bask in His presence and in His Word. Pursue your Heavenly Father and He will come running to meet you! Once you realize or remember the joy and wonder of being in constant praise and adoration of our Savior, you’ll never want to stop 🙂

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Good. You?”

“Good.”

Believe it or not, this could considered to be an actual conversation. It may be short, but this is all the interaction some individuals need in order to feel like they’ve done their duty in acknowledging the existence of someone they may pass on the street or in the hallway.

What could that say about our society today?

To me, it seems like communication and real conversation has gone downhill lately for several reasons:

1. People may feel as if they’re going to get stuck listening to someone’s life story if they stop and ask them how they’re doing.

2. The other person may be unsure as to how much they should share and whether or not the other person really wants to hear about it.

3. Nearly everyone has some type of technological device that keeps them in constant contact with their family, friends, co-workers, etc… without actually having to talk with them face to face.

This kind of reminds me of the song “(Everybody’s Gotta) Song to Sing” by Group 1 Crew:

“Everybody’s got a song to sing, so won’t you come now and sing with me,
It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, times we’ve tried and times we’ve failed,
So when you feel like hope is gone, keep holding on
This is your song.
Everybody’s got a story to tell.”

I love that! And it’s something that our culture has shoved to the wayside. Not many of us actually take the time to intentionally ask how someone is doing in order to find out how things are going in their life.

We all like to put on a face when it comes with interacting with other people. Technology helps a lot with that and people have gotten so used to hiding behind their cyber personality, that it’s hard for them to have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone.

While surfing the Internet on this fun site called StumbleUpon (you click the “Stumble” button and, according to the interests you selected in your profile, it takes you to random sites that you may be interested in), I came across a website called Humans of New York.

This site has a homepage full of portraits of people the photographer had met around New York City: old folk, toddlers in brightly colored outfits, men with six-inch gauges, women with full-sleeve tattoos… you name it, he’s probably met someone like that.
Each individual featured in their own photo and each photo has a quote from that person. Some of them are longer than others, yet even some of the shorter ones can be very profound and moving, such as:

“I’m afraid of sliding back to a place when I didn’t have the tools to be strong.”

“Sometimes, when I go home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.'”

“When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”

“I’m trying to keep him away from all the negativity so that he has a fighting chance. There are so many cracks to fall through. But I already got his older brother to college.”

See what I mean? This is what you get when you take an interest in someone’s life. You discover that there is more to someone than what you first see.

You ever hear the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”? It applies to people too!

That creepy guy on the corner? He has a story to tell.

That group of young boys skating down the sidewalk and attempting tricks that they’re not quite ready to do yet? Each of them has a story to tell.

That shy girl you pass in the hallway every day at school and who everyone else seems to avoid because she seems odd? She has a story to tell.

That NFL football linebacker who seems to be living the dream? He has a story to tell.

As Group 1 Crew says,

“Yo, everybody has a story and it needs to be heard,
So let it play and resonate from the hood to the burbs,
Whether your sky is gray and you been through it all,
There is somebody on this earth that is singing the same song.”

Each person in this world is on a journey. A journey to find themselves, to discover who God is, who He wants them to be and a journey to find out what life has for them.

Each journey results in a unique story. We may go through similar trials and experiences, but each person has a different perspective on life which brings about a variety of results. No one experiences life in the same way and it’s interesting to hear how others see the world.

So take the time to be intentional about the questions you ask. When you say, “Hi, how are you?” try actually making eye contact and stopping to talk with the other person instead of rushing off to the next thing on your schedule.

Don’t pretend to be texting/talking on your phone in the hopes that the person walking past you won’t try to strike up a conversation.

Take the time to listen. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a really awesome feeling knowing that someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say.

Like I said, everyone’s got a story that’s worth listening to 🙂

Oh, and if you’re interested in that Humans of New York site (it’s completely worth checking out!!), I recommend the first story I read: The Boxer. Check it!

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“Counterfeit Gods”

“You might say, “I don’t believe in God,” but the Bible says, “Not possible,”
Everyone has a God, whether or not it’s the God of the gospel…
Even the dictionary defines God as “whatever we make supreme.”
It’s a theme, a thread, it’s inside of all human beings,
The fact we all worship, and no it’s not just about singing.
I know some of you already like “Jeff I don’t worship, I put that on the shelf,”
But I say technically we all do, we just worship ourselves.”

This is the beginning of “Counterfeit Gods,” a spoken word piece by one of my favorite artists, Jefferson Bethke. He has made a number of videos that touch on a lot of hard issues that we, as Christians, face in our every day lives… tattoos, sex, identity, relationships and idols.

Many of us don’t like to admit it, but we tend to place our own personal interests higher in our priorities than God at times (and I’m speaking from experience here):

The anticipation of logging onto the social networks to see who commented on a post or who has the most “likes” on a photo.

The adrenaline rush movies and books provide; giving you the opportunity to escape from the real world and go on crazy adventures all without leaving the couch.

Having a knight in shining armour (or in a really sweet sports car) come whisk you away to live happily ever after!

It may not seem like we’re outright worshiping idols, but think about it… what are we really doing when something of the world takes priority over the God of the universe? Aren’t we just gently pushing Him to the side and asking Him to wait for when we have time to spend with Him.. special time that we set aside for devotions, prayer or journaling… when, in reality, He should be infiltrating our entire existence?!

“Yet, we mock and we laugh at the Israelites Golden Calf,
But we do the same right back; it just looks different than that.
So question, what’s on your throne?
What do you chase so you don’t feel alone?
So what defines you, what do you give ultimate worth?
And what if taken from you would bring ultimate hurt?
Now see, that is your God”

I know I’m getting deep on this one, but God did state in the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:4-6
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”

Did you catch that the second time? Our God is a “jealous God”! He can’t stand the thought of anything taking higher priority in our lives. Yet, we do it over and over again, sometimes without realizing it.

“And you ladies, no guy can love you more than Jesus already has,
So stop getting your worth from Magic Mike. Jesus is so much better than that.
I know you’re thinking,  “So Jeff, are you saying we should hate money, hate drinking, and never have sex.
No, I’m not saying that. The Bible says enjoy it all; in its proper context.”

While God is over here trying to tell us that we’re the most beautiful thing He has ever seen, we end up comparing ourselves to the friends in cyber world who have the most “likes” or settling for the fact that we’ll never live up to the Hollywood version of “perfection.”

Without even realizing it, we get so caught up in dreaming about what lies ahead for us (boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, a career, fame), that we tend to forget that God is already taking care of our past, present and future.

So I ask you… does God have the priority spot in every little part of your life, including your things, friends, social networks and countless other way that you connect to this world? Have you given it all to Him? What would happen if it was all taken away in the blink of an eye? Would your world shatter to pieces around you, or would it stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ?

“He exchanged himself for us, absorbing all our sin.
God put on flesh and do you see how we treated Him?
The ultimate war veteran, because He was killed for our freedom.
Nonetheless, He was thinking of you and me, with every whip that beat em,
And to think he did that knowing full well we’d say, “Nah, we don’t really need Him.”
But like a Father, He couldn’t bare His children to not be free
So He thought up that tree, paid our fee, for specs of dirt like you and me.
So my plea is let Him restore His proper place,
I promise you He loves you right now. Just trust in His grace.
Because before I leave, I’ll leave you with this:
What of those other things you worship took nails in their wrists?
Or how about when was the last time money or sex forgave you?
When’s the last time your boyfriend set you free from all you’re enslaved to?
What else is there that died so you could be made new?
Or when’s the last time the world promised satisfaction, and actually came through?”

I’m still learning, just like you… so I ask that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, please pray for each other to not become to attached to the world around us. While it may be enjoyable for a while, it’s never gonna last.

But there’s one thing that can never be taken away… our awesome God who is overflowing with unconditional love and never-ending patience.

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Cancer Survivor Issues Wake Up Call

Photo courtesy of Paige Omartian

In life or death situations, it can be easy to blame God for what’s happening, to sink down into a state of depression and lose all hope of ever being able to go back to living a normal life. Paige Omartian, a 22-year-old Christian speaker, author, and singer, knows how tempting it is to despair. Doctors diagnosed Omartian with cancer when she was just 11-years-old. But as she struggled for her life, Omartian found strength through her faith, emerging with a different perspective on life and a new sense of purpose.

During her illness, Omartian got the chance, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to go to Nashville, Tenn., and record a Christian album. Some of her songs made their way onto the Bath & Body Works 2005 Holiday CD.

After losing all of her hair to chemotherapy, having to use a wheelchair because she had trouble walking, and enduring the pain that comes with cancer treatments, Omartian finally got a clean bill of health in 2002. Ten years later, she is still cancer free.

In 2007, the year before she was supposed to graduate from Plumstead Christian High School, in Plumsteadville, Pa., Omartian moved to Nashville and joined iShine Live, a national tour of speakers and musicians reaching out to a young teenage audience. At the same time, Omartian signed with Whiplash Records and released her first rock album, “Wake Up.” Several of her songs, including “Episode” and “Wake Up,” made it to Christian music’s Top 30.

Recently, through Harvest House Publishers, Omartian signed a contract to publish her first book, called “Wake Up, Generation.” It is scheduled for release in August. Using Bible verses and her own personal testimony, Omartian hopes to reach out to young people and help them to discover their God-given mission: “If you’re still breathing, there’s a reason why you’re still here,” Omartian recently told readers on her blog (paigehasastory.wordpress.com).

Anna Tielmann 

*Author’s note –  If you want to read the Q&A section, you can find the full story at World on Campus (but you have to be registered in order to view the entire thing) 

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