Easter Sunday Morning Music

I just want to share some of my favourite hymns/songs that I love to listen to on Easter Sunday morning…

Rise Again, by Dallas Holm

Christ The Lord is Risen Today, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Was It a Morning Like This, by Sandi Patty

Easter Song by The 2nd Chapter of Acts

Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, by Royal Choral Society

These aren’t Easter-specific, but still beautiful additions to my Easter music playlist.

A gentle blast from my past that always lifts my heart and spirit: Sometimes Alleluia, by Chuck Girard

This isn’t exactly an Easter song, but still one of my favourites: Your Love Broke Through, by Keith Green

These are two of my favourite Easter hymns that I remember singing when I was a young child: He Lives (I Serve A Risen Saviour), words by Alfred H. Ackley, 1933; Sung by Blue Rock Mennonite Youth

Rejoice the Lord is King, words by John Darwall, sung by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

A favourite any day of the year, but especially Easter: Amazing Grace, sung by Michael W. Smith

And just because it’s so joyful..this one always gets me dancing around the living room: A New Hallelujah, by Michael W. Smith & African Children’s Choir

And finally this beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving: 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

Okay, one more, a bonus song…this one is from way back in the 80’s and had such a profound impact on me then, and got me through many, many dark nights of my soul. Again, not an Easter song per se, but the words are just too beautiful to not include here: Nobody Knows Me Like You, by Benny Hester

 

empty tombeaster

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Palm Sunday – Holy Week

Dear Jesus,

Today is Palm Sunday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this today. I know that we’ve been together since I was a child and that You know my heart and its ways, even better than I do. But I have to say something I’ve never admitted before, Lord…that I really hate today’s story…and how the story is going to keep unfolding over the next week. I know I’m not supposed to hate anything, and I’m sorry to use that word, but it really is how I feel.

I really hate how You were betrayed and abandoned by Your best friends. I hate how people spat on You, and mocked and ridiculed You in public. I hate how they bullied You. I hate how the very people You spoke such tender Love to, the many, many people You healed along the way, were the ones who turned away and gave up on You and Your message of Love. I hate how they totally misunderstood – how they totally missed that YOU were Your Father’s Love letter to His people. I hate how they couldn’t tolerate their own inability to grasp Your Love and so chose to save Barabas instead of You. I hate when they nailed You to that cross….the agony You must have felt, as they brutally drove those nails through your beautiful healing hands, crushes my heart into a zillion pieces. I can scarcely even listen when they get to that part of the story. I hate how they all stood there and watched you bleed and die, so helpless and alone. I hate that You felt so abandoned, even by Your own Father, in those last agonizing moments. I hate it all. I hate the hatred.

Most of all, I hate how little we’ve changed over all these years. How we still mock and bully those who speak Love and peace instead of hatred and war. I hate how we still reject and walk away from even our best friends when they speak something that we don’t like to hear or make choices that we don’t understand. I hate that even after all You’ve said and done, I still doubt that You really love me. And I hate that even knowing all of this, after hearing and reading and experiencing Your tender faithful Love for my entire life, I can still even utter the word “hate”, knowing full well that You live, speak and breathe Love and call me to do the same.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain and sorrow that You had to endure all those many years ago. I’m sorry for not getting the message either, for not being able to fully trust You and Your Love, even though You did all of this, and suffered all this agony for me. And the irony is not lost on me that You gave up YOUR life, precisely so that I could live and speak and breathe, even if that includes living and speaking and breathing “hate”.

Yes, I hate the story of Palm Sunday, and the week that we’re entering into…it’s a week I wish I could somehow ignore and pretend never happened, a week I wish I could skip entirely through and get straight to that moment, that glorious moment early Sunday morning when You rise and I can almost hear all of Heaven singing Hallelujah, and I can feel my heart pulsing with joy and gladness in the knowing that all is well again, You are alive, and we are too.

Grace. Amazing Grace. How sweet, how sweet that Grace that finds me in my hatred and in my sorrow and in my lost places and speaks Love, Healing, Sunrise, Mercy, Path, Light and Hallelujah into the deepest corners of my being. Grace. Palm Sunday Grace. Holy Thursday Grace. Good Friday Grace. Saturday – our “in-between-places” – Grace, Rising Grace. It’s there, Grace is there, woven in and through every word and every sorrow and every bloody striking of the whip and nails, in the darkness of the tomb, in the weeping out our “why’s”, in our excruciating agony-of-absence, in our waiting in the void, in the rising and the glory of Sunday morning.

How can I hate the story when it oozes Grace and Mercy and Light and Love in every single word?! Love, You, turned the darkness to Light, the sorrow to Joy, the lostness to  Hope, the cross to Redemption, our “why” to Grace…You, Your story, turns my hatred to Love.

Palm Sunday…Hosanna to the King. Hosanna to the Love of my life. Tell me again the story of Your Love…

palm cross

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Bits and Pieces

Every so often, I become conscious of a new “theme” in my life, growing out of recurring nuances that come out of my meanderings through prayer and meditation, social media memes and conversations, nature and various issues/concerns that need processing and enlightenment. These new themes tend to stick around for awhile until I’ve figured out the golden nuggets of learning that grow out of the mulling and pondering.

This latest new theme began several months ago as part of my morning Grace-prayer. I usually make myself a veggie omelette for breakfast and these omelettes often end up being quite a work of art by the time they’re finished. They make my mouth drool just looking at them, and it’s always exciting to sit down and dig into them because each one is its own unique masterpiece. So my Grace-prayer is one of deep gratitude, beginning with profound thanks specifically for all of the wonderful “bits and pieces” that have gone into making these omelettes…usually a combination of sauteed onions, red peppers, mushrooms, baby spinach, ham, tomatoes, cheese and various different herbs and spices. I’m grateful for the bounty of “bits and pieces” that were available in the fridge and pantry…and I’m also profoundly grateful for having had the energy to make the omelette, the pleasure I get from cutting and cooking the various “bits and pieces”, and the growing renewal of this creative side of myself.  After sleep-walking through many years of grief, depression, chronic fatigue and simply not knowing what to do – or what I could do – with my life anymore, this new energy, these bursts of creativity and even the simple pleasure in making these morning omelettes, are not only producing a scrumptious healthy breakfast, but are opening the door to other healthier habits, and awakening in me the desire to find new ways to be creative in other aspects of my life as well.

So the phrase “bits and pieces” began in those morning Grace-prayers…and gradually has blossomed into a whole new way of enjoying my day-to-day life. I can feel myself becoming more aware of, and expressing more gratitude for the other “bits and pieces” that I’m now actively looking for and finding in the various nooks and crannies of each day. I’m no longer looking for the big chunks of “perfection”; they’re often just simple, small, barely visible-if-you’re-not-looking-for-them, perhaps even seemingly disconnected “bits and pieces” reaching out of the cooking, cleaning, housework, outings, exercising and other daily activities. Then as the day continues its unfolding, all of these various “bits and pieces” weave themselves together in my consciousness to create quite a masterpiece image of – JOY!

And that got me to thinking. About how once upon a time, I used to believe that happiness was a once-and-for-all-time thing, that once my life was in order and everything in its right place, I would finally be happy. There was always this belief that once I found the perfect place to live, once I got married, once I had children, once I had the perfect job, once I had all the beautiful house, clothes and shoes and trinkets I always yearned for, once this, once that…once it was all in place and everything was aligned perfectly, voila. Happiness. The problem was that this plan kept falling apart, once, twice, many times over. I was told in my mid-twenties that I could never have children. I was in my mid-thirties and still not married. I suffered from chronic low-grade depression (dysthemia) so I would never even be eligible to adopt children, and chronic fatigue made it difficult for me to hold any job or even do volunteer work for very long. Nothing ever seemed to go the way I thought it would, and so happiness became more and more elusive, if not downright impossible.

But a few years ago, I took it upon myself to redefine what happiness is. I began to choose to believe that we didn’t have to – that we COULD NOT – wait until the perfect day, or the perfect job, or the perfect weather, or the perfect person, or the perfect whatever finally came along. I figured that happiness HAD to be somehow find-able right here and right now. It  had to be! How could it be something so elusive and impossible if it’s meant to be so vital and necessary to our health and well-being?!

So I’ve been on a path, which has meandered me through many books and conversations and into deep questioning prayer and ultimately led me to nurturing my gratitude attitude. This led me in turn to zeroing in on finding the beauty and blessings in the here-and-now, digging underneath all of the crap and chaos the world throws at us, like the tiny tenacious crocus that insists on blooming despite and through the lingering snow. That meandering has led me on a wondrous journey into a deeper inner peace and contentment that I’ve never experienced before. A contentment based on finding joy and pleasure in the myriad of the “bits and pieces” that make up each day. The “bits and pieces” of scrumptious veggies that make their way from the garden into my omelettes, the “bits and pieces” of new buds on the lilac tree, the “bits and pieces” of flowers making their way through the dirt in the front garden, the “bits and pieces” of sunrises and sunsets and ever-changing clouds against a brilliant blue sky, the “bits and pieces” of connections and conversations with family and friends from all over the world, the “bits and pieces” of so many different birds singing all around me, the “bits and pieces” of life and living everywhere I look.

Yes, there are also “bits and pieces” of chaos and mayhem, never-ending rivers of violence and hatred spewing from the news, there are large chunks of raw grief and ragged pieces of people and pain, of poverty and hunger, of fear and despair. Sometimes, perhaps often, those “bits and pieces” weigh us down and cripple us into a sense of futility, and blind us to what else is out there, the other “bits and pieces” of beauty and kindness, of comforting compassion and uplifting nurturing, of Grace and Light that are well within our reach and field of vision, if we allow our eyes and hearts to be open to seeing and allowing them to take root in us and grow us forward, even through the crap and chaos.

My definition of happiness is much more attainable and sustainable now, because now it’s built on seeing, enjoying, nurturing, gathering, sharing and choosing to focus more of my time and energy on these good “bits and pieces” that are in my here-and-now. In fact, even though I now know and, with some sadness, accept that life and people and the world will never be perfect, my life IS jam-packed with wondrous “bits and pieces”, more than I can even take in most days. And it all leaves me breathlessly intoxicated with profound joy and gratitude for being so much healthier, contented, peaceful and, yes, happier, than ever before in my life.

 

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2017. All rights reserved.
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Filling in the Blanks

A few weeks ago, this came to me in prayer. It’s been mulling around in my head ever since, and I decided to share it as a New Year’s Day “food for thought”.

“You have in your mind an image of what ____________________ should look like. And when the reality doesn’t match the picture in your head, you feel disappointed, betrayed, even despair. And you become so focused on what it DOESN’T look like (what you have convinced yourself that it SHOULD look like), that you keep missing the beauty and blessing of what IS…on what IS right in front of you.”

As I have been pondering this, I realized that I could “fill in the blank” with anything and it was true. A few of the issues that I most struggle with include:

  • Relationships/friendships
  • Love
  • Feeling heard
  • God
  • My own self being “enough”

Every issue I struggle with can fit here…for example, I have a picture in my head of what friendships “should” look like, and when the reality doesn’t fit the picture in my head, I despair and grieve over the loss of that friendship…when in fact, the reality IS that friends do love, and do care and are present in my life…but I’m so focused on what those friendships and relationships DON’T look like (i.e., they don’t match the picture in my head of how they should look) that I keep missing the joy and richness of what’s right in front of me, here and now.

I realized that I do have pictures in my head of what “Love”, what “feeling heard”, what “God”, what “self” all should look like…pictures that have been conjured up through a lifetime of reading books, magazines, watching TV and listening to what teachers, parents, other people and the media have told me life should look like…and when the realities don’t match the pictures, I do fall into great despair over the perceived failures and losses and absences, and I do experience a sense of betrayal and hurt and disconnection. When I dare to look beyond those pictures and see the truth of what’s right in front of me, in fact, it’s all there…I AM deeply loved, I AM heard, God IS with me, and my Self is actually strong, healthy, vibrant, contented and ENOUGH…but I’m so focused on what I believe is missing, on what ISN’T, that I keep missing the beauty and blessing and joys of what IS.

The mediation continues: “Relinquish the need for “it (fill in the blank)” to fit your “should’s”; let go of these expectations for everything and everyone to match the pictures/should’s in your head. Open your eyes to what IS, and allow that beauty to shine through. Allow people, friendships, Love and God to be who they are, even when they don’t match those pictures in your head, and choose to see that they are good and “enough”. Find the blessing in what IS instead of focusing on old lies and the resulting sense of betrayal of what is in truth an illusion that has been allowed to develop through a lifetime of listening to what everyone else has led you to believe your life “should” look like.”

This year, let go of those pictures and unrealistic expectations you’ve built up in your head –  and let the goodness and joy of what IS, and the people who ARE in your life, bless you.

2017

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2017. All rights reserved.
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Make Yourself At Home

Evening Prayer

“Lord, my mind is scattery today. Toxic. I don’t like it and have been trying to ‘think a better thought’ but not getting very far.”

I manage to quiet my scattered brain and stay centred in the silence for a few moments.

“Make your mind your home”

Right away my heart pounds and my tired brain perks up. What a radical idea! Make my mind my home.

“How?”

“How do you make any house a home? By furnishing it with love, surrounding yourself with your favourite mementos and colours that bring you joy and pleasure. By creating a comfortable space where you can put your feet up and relax. Do the same with your mind. Furnish your mind with love, surround yourself with thoughts that bring joy and pleasure. Create a space where you can put your inner feet up and relax into the comfort of being “at home” with yourself.

  • Fill your mind with Love and Light – open the windows and let Light flow in!
  • Fill your mind with good enjoyable experiences that make you laugh;
  • Fill your mind’s ears with gentle words of understanding, patience and encouragement and for all that you’ve been through today;
  • Create a space in your mind for friendly gatherings and conversations – and companionable silences – with Me and with your own self…show kind hospitality for the pilgrim that you are and compassionate respect for all that you have travelled through to get here;
  • Remember to enjoy the treasures you’ve collected throughout your journey; take them out – the wisdoms and the blessings – and enjoy them over and over again;
  • Continue to cultivate your loving self-talk; always speak kind words into and within that inner sanctum;
  • Create in your mind a safe comfortable place where you feel free to relax, put your tired thoughts up and do nothing when you want and need to;
  • Dust once in awhile;
  • Every so often clear out the clutter than inevitably accumulates in any attic;
  • Detoxify – daily! Clean out the negativity you’ve picked up through the TV, conversations and ruminations; refill those emptied spaces with more Love and Light;
  • Wash the windows once in awhile; life has a way of throwing mud in your eyes;
  • Continuously furnish your mind with fresh beauty, favourite music, comfortable resting spaces, nourishing silence, grateful thoughts and whatever other delightful things that bring you joy;
  • Do what you need to do to protect your core, your peace, your Sacred Ground and the Light of your own being…stay your course and don’t allow anyone or anything to steal your joy and peace…remember, you are allowed to close the door to unwanted intruders into your home!
  • Most of all, ALLOW your mind to become and be home. You live there 24/7, it should and can be the place where you are Loved the most.”

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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Amazing Grace

Watching TV…over, or is it deep underneath, the rumble and chaos of the show we’re watching…

Whispering…“Come. Come and spend some time with Me. “

Exasperated…“I want to. I do…but I’m afraid.”

Tenderly…“What are you afraid of, My child?”

Still exasperated, because I’ve been grappling with this for awhile….now being honest…

“Afraid of coming to You and then hearing only silence. [I am always here, even in what you hear as silence].

“I’m afraid of this insatiable hunger forever gnawing at my soul – I too want – hunger – YEARN – to experience those beautiful meadows of Yours and walk in that garden with You and to feel Your warm Shoulder touching mine…[I’m here, wherever You need Me to be and in whatever shape and form You need Me to show Myself, all you have to do is let yourself be – here – there – anywhere you want]…

…but I’m afraid of not feeling anything at all and coming away emptier than when I came in.”  (I can sense a tender understanding…He knows…He gets it…and I can feel a pulsing Presence, patient, knowing…waiting, as if He has all the time in the world to wait until I’m ready.)

Digging deep… “Afraid that You will ask me for more than I can give.”

I never ask you for more than you can give. All I want is you…

“All I have are pieces of me. Lots of broken pieces.”

Big happy grin…“Oh but I LOVE jigsaw puzzles.”

I can’t help but laugh out loud.

Amazing Grace.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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Morning Tumble Into Me

I experienced a moment this morning. I’m not sure how to describe it. I want to call it an epiphany, but have had similar conversations with God and my own self many times before. What made this one different is that I felt connected to my own words, connected to the feelings I was feeling, and connected to a Loving Presence. I think that previous forays into the subject may have been more in the guise of either pleas for help, or quickly glossing over it to avoid the core, to ignore the “me” lying underneath the flippant avoidance.

But this morning, I don’t know why, I somehow ended up inside of that moment, that shadow and that conversation. As many of my friends and readers know, I’ve been on a very long journey to recreate for myself a life I enjoy waking up to. I needed to do that because of my very long history of depression and of NOT wanting to wake up at all. No need to go into that, it was what it was, and I don’t live there anymore because I’ve made incredibly wonderful progress in establishing, nurturing, maintaining and living an authentic gratitude attitude. I’ve designed a morning routine that I enjoy waking up to, starting with prayer of thanksgiving, then downstairs to my beautiful tea cup, a beautiful glass jar full of my favourite tea which hubby lovingly makes for me every morning, beautiful caring friends on Facebook, a healthy breakfast with a pantry full of the things I enjoy eating for breakfast and a window looking out over our beautiful new deck which is alive with flowers and squirrels and birds and a view brimming with beauty everywhere I look. My mornings are now my favourite part of the day.

So yes, I’ve come a long way. And yet…despite all of the progress and genuine gladness to be alive, there is still, too often for my liking lately, this little shadow of “something” that still hovers on the periphery of those first morning moments. But instead of venturing inside of it,  I’ve ignored it, assuming that it was old remnants of the old way of thinking…and therefore not somewhere I wanted to go, especially first thing in the morning. So with mind-over-matter tenacity, I resolutely start each day with positive thinking and the shadows eventually disappear.

But this morning, as I kicked off the bedsheets and sat on the side of my bed, fully intending to pray my prayer of morning thanksgiving, I found myself tumbling head-first into that dark shadow. I felt like it was going to suffocate me. I had been fairly certain that this shadow was a relapse into the old way of thinking…so there was no point in avoiding it or denying it any longer…same-old same-old…except that I wasn’t alone there this time. I felt Presence. Surrounded by Presence. He surprised me…especially when I heard Him ask this question instead of what I might have expected to hear…

“You are afraid.”

“Yes”. I was surprised to discover that it was true, that this shadow was NOT the same-old dark “not wanting to live” nemesis that had haunted me since I was about 13 years old. This morning, being finally inside of this shadow, I could see no glimpse of that old way of thinking, and I couldn’t help but feel a flutter of joy – and triumph – because to me, fear was a huge step up, a much better nemesis to have to grapple with than the despair had been. I was genuinely glad and relieved to discover that it was only fear…fear usually can’t survive in the willingness to hold its sneaky lies up to the light of truth.

“What are you afraid of?”

I didn’t even have to think, even though the answer surprised me again…”Of not making it through.”

Right away, I caught glimpses of all of the other mornings when I had arisen with the same – but unspoken – fear rising up to catch in my throat, mornings when I hadn’t allowed myself to look at it, much less speak to it, resolutely getting up and moving ahead into my daily routine…and “making it through” every single one of those days. Yes, I had made it through. Those glimpses of those accomplishments – those many days I HAD gotten through – loosened the grip the fear had on me.

“I’m afraid of not making it through the day…without failing. I’m afraid of failure. Afraid of losing important bits of myself in directions I don’t want to go in. Of not being enough to make a difference to anyone anywhere today. Of not making the most of the gift…the gift of time, and not being the gift of who I am, fear of missing out on what I’m meant to be learning…of not recognizing WHERE I’m meant to be. Of leaving important things undone. But most of all, for not being the love my soul yearns to be in this world today.”

The answer was tender. “You are all of that already, everywhere you are…you are already the love that you are, you are already unfolding yourself into the gift of time as you rise and go through your day…the day will flow you where you’re meant to go…flow you to the people and activities where your gifts and need for learning lead you to go. There’s no such thing as leaving things undone…what needs to be done will be done.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing else I need…”

“Yes. The day is gift…your joy is simply “be”ing you…the moments will take you through…go and live it.”

I felt such peace and courage flowing through me then. And no fear as I rose from the side of my bed and made it through to the moments waiting for me.

You are. That’s enough.

 

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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