Monday, June 1, 2009

How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours

How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours – John Newton

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers
Have all lost their sweetness to me
The mid-summer sun shines but dim
The fields strive in vain to look gay
But when I am happy in Him
December’s as pleasant as May

His name yields the riches perfume
And sweeter than music His voice
His presence disperses my gloom
And makes all within me rejoice
I should, were He always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear
No mortal so happy as I
My summer would last all the year

Content with beholding His face
My all to His pleasure resigned
No changes of season or place
Would make any change in my mind
While blest with a sense of His love
A palace a toy would appear
And prisons would palaces prove
If Jesus would dwell with me there.

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine
If Thou art my sun and my song
Say, why do I languish and pine?
And why are my winters so long?
O drive these dark clouds from my sky
Thy soul-cheering presence restore
Or take me unto Thee on high
Where winter and clouds are no more

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you… By day the LORD directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.” ~Psalm 42:5-6, 8

Every once in awhile, I have a moment where God’s ironic providence in my life makes me stop whatever I’m doing and laugh out loud. Today was one of those times, and boy, did I ever need it! You see, for the last few days, I have been plodding my way through what I would call a dilemma of faith. Some people call times like these valleys or deserts. Some call them crises of faith. I would stray from using words of quite that magnitude. I am merely facing a dilemma, a difficulty, a challenge. For days the strangest emptiness has consumed me. At first, I blamed it on boredom. Now, I am finding it runs deeper than that. I’m unhappy. I’m dissatisfied. God has felt distant, foreign, silent. Nothing has seemed to touch my heart the way I’m used to. Life has been pretty cold and bleak to be completely honest.

Anyway, back to God’s irony. Being in a somewhat dismal mood, I decided to sit at my piano for awhile, hoping that I might be able to distract myself. Beethoven didn’t seem to help. Gershwin was an utter disaster. Tinkering with my own melodies was fun, but still not filling. Finally, I decided to flip through my old Baptist Hymnal and see what I could find. After about five minutes of nothing but a few amusing titles proving to me that I should definitely find myself an updated version, I came across something that caught my attention. It was a hymn by John Newton (the same John Newton who wrote “Amazing Grace” I imagine) entitled, “How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours.” Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor! How convenient! A hymn to describe exactly how I was feeling. The cynic in me let out a little hoot, fully pleased to not be alone. Then I began to read. And then I was slightly convicted.

I ate the first two verses up like candy. It was as if I had written them myself! Then Mr. Newton (and perhaps the Holy Spirit as well…) decided to turn things around on me. “Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine, if Thou art my sun and my song, say, why do I languish and pine? And why are my winters so long?” Wow. I said that out loud actually. I mean really. Wow. What a precious reminder in the midst of this “dilemma of faith!”

There’s a word in Hebrew, am-segulah, which is used in Exodus 19 to describe God’s setting apart the nation of Israel. From what I’ve gathered, the direct translation would be something like “My people, My treasure” (“…my own treasure (segulah) from among all the peoples (am)…and you will be a kingdom… for me, a nation set apart.” Ex. 19:5-6). I’ll say it again. Wow. I am indeed God’s own treasure. He is indeed “my sun and my song.” Why am I not rejoicing in every moment? I belong to the Lord of Lords! The one who parted the Red Sea and rescued the nation of Israel from years of bondage calls me His own today!

That’s when God brought Psalm 42 to mind. Truly, the psalmist is asking the same question I am. “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” He also provides a great answer for anyone battling discouragement: “My soul is downcast within me; therefore, I will remember You.” How blessedly simple! How wonderfully honest! God, I am discouraged right now, so I’ll remember you. I will turn to you, no matter how distant you feel, and I will sing. I will praise your name. I will draw near to you, for you have turned my mourning into dancing. You have turned my winter into spring. You have turned my prison into a palace. I cannot bear to be apart from you. I will forever believe you and I will daily seek you, O Lover of my Soul! Glory be to God for His ironic providence!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

God on Forgiveness

This is what God spoke to me a few nights ago. It really changed my perspective on a lot of things, and I don't think it's just for me.

God on Forgiveness
April 22, 2009

My love, there are a few things I need you to know about forgiveness. First, it is a joy for me to forgive you. I know you can’t wrap your mind around it, darling, but it’s true. I love to forgive you because it breaks down the walls that separate us. You are my beloved. Hear that, child and believe! I want to be near you. I want to be with you. I want to dwell in you! You are so precious to Me, and while your sins break my heart, it brings me the greatest joy to look on you in love, grace, and mercy. As you kneel before Me in repentance, I forget your sins, sweep you up off your knees and into my arms, kiss your tears away, and whisper Truth and Love into your very heart. Can you see it, dearest? My smile? It is truly a JOY for Me to forgive you, to cleanse you from all of your mistakes! It is an essential part of who I am: Love. It brings glory and honor to My name, for in your weakness, my strength shines. Most of all, it restores you to Me. You’re in My arms again.

Another thing, dear one, I know how difficult it is to grow up, no matter hold old you are or what stage you are at in life. I know that the stretching and the shaping and the molding are painful. I know life seems to get more and more burdensome and complicated and taxing. I know it makes you long for the joys of childhood, the innocence, the freedom, the affection, the simplicity, the love you received rather than gave constantly. You must realize, dearest, that I will forever call you My child. I have chosen and adopted you, and in my Spirit, you can always find innocence and freedom, love and affection, simplicity and peace. Even those who had their childhood stolen from them and never experienced any of these things are able to find them in Me today.

Finally My darling, I know you. I know your weaknesses and your shortcomings and your greatest struggles. I still love you with a limitless love! You are covered in the blood of My Son whom I sent for YOU. You have nothing to prove to Me. There are no expectations you need to strive to reach. You merely need to surrender to My love. Allow it to transform your heart, mind, and life and lead you into a deeper love for Me. Child, abide in Me and My love for you. That’s all you need to do. Yes, it does require work: diving into My Word, dying to yourself daily, becoming conscious of My presence in your everyday life, committing yourself to follow Me each day, spending time with Me, sacrifice. Still, I can promise you that it is well worth it, and moreover, I promise to walk each step with you and give you the strength you need. Child, stop clenching your fists so tightly and simply take My hand! You will stumble, yes. You will fail. I know. You are learning! I promise to pick you up in forgiveness and to love you always. Remember, it is My joy to forgive and lift you up again. I love to come to your rescue! Now, My love, My blessed one, My favored one, My adopted and chosen one, My forgiven one, My redeemed one, My child… forgive yourself as I have forgiven you. Let go! I love you!

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” ~Ephesians 1:4-10

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I don't know why I never posted this before... It's based on Psalm 143:8: "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."


The sun peaks o’er the horizon
And paints its canvas sky
With brushstrokes new and perfect
Colors burst before my eyes
The birds awake to marvel
Then add their symphonies
The gentle breeze of course must join
And dances with the trees
With joy and such abandon
Creation greets the day
Welcoming the morning
Forgetting yesterday
Nothing’s as it was before
No, everything is new
As creation welcomes morning
It points me straight to You
The morning brings me word
Of Your unfailing love
Its newness a reflection
Of Your mercy from above
Oh Lord won’t You show me
Just where You’d have me go
In You I place my trust
To You I lift my soul
With what joy do I awaken
To join creation’s art
And find my yoke is shattered
As Your love satisfies my heart

Stephanie M. Frakes
(November 5, 2008)

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Stand in Awe

This is a new project that I feel God is leading me into. It's an exploration of the Scriptures through song. Basically, I'm picking hymns and other songs of worship that touch my heart and allowing God to lead me into the deeper truthes that He has hidden there for me, and perhaps for you as well. We'll see where this journey goes. Here's my first one.

I Stand in Awe

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension,
Like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of your love?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Majesty enthroned above.
And I stand; I stand, in awe of you.
I stand; I stand in awe of you.
Holy God, to whom all praise is due,
I stand in awe of you.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)

I often find myself at a loss for words when I begin to think of God’s majesty. It’s simply too much for me to fathom. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize that is a colossal understatement. God’s majesty is beyond unfathomable to me. I look at a sunset and find myself speechless. Mountains make my heart stop. A sky full of stars sends my head spinning. And that’s only the creation! How can I even begin to imagine the Creator? How powerful? How magnificent? How breathtaking is our God? Dare I go on to consider His divine character? Dare I even attempt to wrap my mind around His wisdom or His love, the very things that make God… well, God?

When I consider it all, even though I am only scratching the surface, I find that I wonder just like the Psalmist: “What is man that you are mindful of Him?” Even now, I can feel myself shrinking, utterly dwarfed by God’s majesty. How could I possibly mean anything to Him, the ruler of all creation? Still, the God of the universe is not only mindful of me; He does not merely acknowledge my existence with a flippant nod of His crowned head. On the contrary, He cares deeply for me. All through Scripture both in the Old and New Testaments, God reveals His desire to make me His own. “Who can fathom the depth of [that] love?” My only reaction is to fall on my face in worship. I cannot hold my head up in the presence of so magnificent a God. And so one word in the song catches me off guard: Stand. “I stand in awe of you.” I wonder how it is possible to stand in the presence of God. I know I am not worthy.

I’m suddenly reminded of a time so long ago when I found myself face down in worship. It was one of the most spectacular moments of my Christian walk. I could see the throne of God before me, and I knelt at the feet of the One who reigns. My tears flowed as I repented and shrank before Him. I could not bring myself to look at Him for fear that He would see everything that I had been trying for so long to hide. Still, I could not leave His presence. Then He gently reached down and lifted my chin so that our eyes met. Slowly, He lifted me to my feet, telling me that I no longer needed to bow before His throne; I could stand now, for I had been covered in the blood of the Lamb. His words touched the deepest part of my soul that day and brought a new healing. In Christ, the King became a Father, one that not only acknowledged me and cared for me, but one that I could approach with confidence, one that I could stand before. Our God sits enthroned in majesty, but that throne is one of grace. So may those of us who have experienced the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus allow ourselves to come face to face with the indescribable beauty of God, and may we lift our heads, look into the Father’s loving eyes and stand in awe of Him, His power, His majesty, His wisdom, His compassion, and His grace.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two new poems

I wrote on the last page of my journal last night. That's always a really big moment for me. Some people look back at the start of a new year, sometimes on their birthdays, this is that time for me. It's such an amazing and humbling moment to turn and look back at this precious journey that I am on with my Beautiful God. To see how far He's brought me and what He's taught me. To see all my mistakes that He has forgiven and blessed me inspite of. To see how He turned things around. It's so wonderful. We truly serve and awesome and gracious God! Following are the final two poems to be "extracted" from the pages of my journal before I put it away and start again. It's funny how bittersweet this is; after all, it's only a book of paper, but it has come to mean so much more than that to me. Oh the gifts God gives us! Enjoy.....
I Thought I Loved You

I thought I loved You
I thought I knew You
I thought I believed You
‘Til now.

The trials and pain
The sorrows and strain
Changed everything in me

I saw Your face
Your beauty and grace
As I walked through battles
With You.

You took my tears
My hopes and my fears
To show me all that
You could do.

And now here I am
In the palm of Your hand
In reverence and worship
I bow.

I can’t help but sing
Lord Jesus, my King
If ever I loved thee
‘Tis now!

Stephanie M. Frakes
(December 13, 2008)
Teach Me to Be

And I’ll be everything
I can’t see
Right now

And I’ll do everything
I never knew
I could

For I believe
You are everything
You say You are

And You can do
Everything You
Said You could

And I believe I am
Who You say I am
I AM, I can do everything
through You

And You’re alive
And active in me, My God
And You’ll work in me
‘Til You’re through

So Lord, if You can raise the dead
Raise the dead in me
Take my heart and set me
Set me free
Teach me to fly
Teach me to soar, oh Lord
And so much more

But more than anything
Teach me to be

Stephanie M. Frakes
(January 3, 2009)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Singer has a Song

My lips ache, longing to be graced once again by melody, by a song, like the ones I used to sing so long ago. I remember. I remember those days of reckless joy when I felt darkness, hunger, and thirst had no place in my world. Now they feel so near. I know who I am. I am a singer. My silent lips would not ache so if that were not the case, but what is a singer to do when she has abandoned so much, when she has given away so many pieces of herself that she no longer has a song? Who is a singer without a song? Still… I know, and I feel led.

I begin to walk. The landscape is not at all what I expect. My vineyards and orchards shrivel as I leave them behind. The strong and towering mountains morph into mounds of sand, which the wind begins to swirl around me, a heart-wrenching replacement for the strings of melody that encircled me not so long ago. Or perhaps it was long ago. I’ve lost all concept of time. It’s hot. My mouth is dry. I continue walking even though I can feel the strength, the joy, the music as they leave my body. Evaporating. Just like the water that I so long for. I must be going the wrong way, but why can’t I stop? What is this pull that is leading me straight into the desert? I don’t want to go there!

The sun beats down upon me. The gold I wear begins to burn my skin. I tear it from my neck and toss it into the sand like the worthless piece of trash that it is, a trophy symbolizing not what I gained, but everything I gave away. The gold flickers under the sun’s rays, and, for a moment, I feel I am looking at myself. Should I follow? Should I throw myself into the sand, worthless piece of trash that I am? I am going to die here anyway. I cannot survive in this place, and besides which, I deserve death. Why should I continue walking?

Suddenly, I hear something, something like the wind, but so distinct. “No!” A voice? Both my feet and my heart stop. Fear washes over my body like an arctic chill, painful, not refreshing. “Come.” The word is spoken gently, but with great authority. I begin to shake. I long more than ever to run, to dive into the sand, to hide myself. The burden of my sin and my past weighs heavier on me than it ever has before. Pictures flash before me, pictures far brighter than the blazing sun, pictures of pride, idolatry, unbelief, rebellion, pictures of a slow and painful death, like the one I deserve. “Come.” He says again. Despite the deep longings to turn and run, I move forward. One foot in front of the other. Why haven’t I turned around? Why can’t I run? Why am I so drawn to this desert… to my death? “Come.” He says it again, and again, and again. Each time it sounds sweeter, more familiar, almost like a lover, but so pure. I know this voice!

Despite my weakness, my feet begin to fly. No, I didn’t turn around, but I am running. I can’t help myself. I must get to Him, to the One who is speaking to me, for I know I know Him. And so I run. “Come.” I keep running. “Come.” My heart is beating frantically now. The wind picks up, stirring the dust about me. “Come.” The voice seems nearer, but my labored breathing and beating heart almost drown it out. “Come!” The wind. My heart. My breathing. My feet pounding. Sand, coarse against my skin. Then… silence.

My breathing slows. My heart falls back into a gentle rhythm. Then I hear the voice once more, this time speaking softly, tenderly, straight to my heart. “Remember Me.” He says it pleadingly, and I know He is not pleading for His own sake, but for mine. “Forget your sins. Forget your former life. Only remember Me. Only remember the day that I taught you to sing. Only remember My love!” Everything in me begins to stir at once. When I feel I can contain it no longer, I open my mouth, and from my parched lips, song burst forth! They are not intricate melodies. They would probably never find a place on the world’s stage, but they are beautiful nonetheless, for they are His. I am His. Soon I find myself laughing, a laughter of the purest kind, for here I stand in the middle of the desert, hungry, thirsty, torn, broken, weak. I was a singer without a song, hopeless, and He led me here, and suddenly, the singer has a song!

“I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers… I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but Me she forgot… Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her to the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (Achor means trouble) a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” ~Hosea 2:12-15

Oh how graciously and mercifully God responds to our rebellion! Yes, He leads us to the desert, but not as punishment, rather as a chance to speak to us in His love. It is in the desert that we find our songs!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Father, I Said

Do you know me? Do you love me? I find that I ask these questions a lot. Not out loud, of course, but they do ring in my heart quite often. I long to be truly known and still truly loved. I just think that would be so wonderfully freeing and fulfilling. To know that nothing about you is hidden, to not have to worry and check constantly to ensure that the dark corners of your heart are still covered. To know that you are loved for the person you are, not the person you work so hard to create. Freeing and fulfilling and real. It's strange how in the presence of God I find just that, and yet so many times I want to run from it. God knows everything about me; He created my innermost being and hemmed me in behind and before. He knows me better than I know myself. I can't hide anything from Him. The light of His countenance exposes everything (scary though, isn't it?). Still, He tells me He loves me. I'm looking at Psalm 136. "Give thanks to the God of gods; His love endures forever... To Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by His understanding made the Heavens, His love endures forever!" Wow. Truly unconditional love. That is so beyond anything I can fathom... and that too scares me. How am I to accept that kind of love? So I find myself trying to get away. I fall to my knees and weep. I refuse to lift my eyes, because I know I'll see Him and He'll know and He'll love and I don't think I can handle that. I want that, but I don't think I can handle it.

The beautiful thing is that God is relentless. He sees me cowering, and He reaches down and gently lifts my chin until our eyes meet. And suddenly all my fears subside and all that's left is that longing, the one that brought me here in the first place. But even that doesn't last long because as He takes me into His arms, I know that it's been fulfilled. Now, I'd be a liar if I said I feel that all the time. Even with this beautiful picture, I still find myself wanting to run from God. It's hard for me to go to Him with everything, but that's okay. Really. What I feel, what I don't understand, what I struggle and battle to accept... none of that changes the fact that God does truly know me and truly love me... and I am His. And you know, every day of my life I see my fear diminish and my acceptance increase as He and I journey together. Oh what joy!

Father, I Said

“Father,” I said,
“Do You know me?”
“Father,” I said,
“Do You love me?”
“Father,” I said,
As I knelt and I wept
And all of my words quickly fled.

“My child,” He said,
“I know you
Even more than you, yourself do.”
“My child,” He said,
“How I love you!”
And somehow His words rang so true.

Yet I turned my eyes to the ground,
For there in His presence I found
A love so beyond comprehension
It filled me with fear, apprehension.
For I felt the full weight of my sin,
Yet He gently lifted my chin.
I looked in His eyes
And He looked in mine
And I knew I’d no reason to hide.

“Father,” I said
As He held me,
“I admit that I don’t understand.
My sin is exposed,
Insufficiencies known
Yet You relentlessly call me Your own.
I don’t understand,
Yet I am.”

Stephanie M. Frakes
(January 10, 2009)