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Thursday, December 19, 2013

CHRISTMAS HYMN ...'I CANNOT TELL'


          A blessed and joyous Christmas to each of you!   In Jesus' love, Carol

My Favorite Christmas Hymn:  Carol Castagna
 
*I CANNOT TELL*
 
Text:  Ken Bible, inspired by William Y. Fullerton

Music:  Traditional Irish melody to ‘Oh, Danny Boy’


Verse I:
 
I cannot tell why He, the King of Heaven,

Should leave the peace of all eternity

Why God Himself should lay aside His splendor

To leave the Father’s side and come to me

 
But this I know:  our silence filled with singing

And all our darkness fled from heaven’s light

When Christ, the Lord

So human yet so holy

In love was born a child for me that holy night


Verse II:
 
I cannot tell why He, the Joy of Heaven

Should give Himself to suffer for my sin

Why Holy God should love me in my shamefulness

Why He should die to draw my soul to Him

 
But this I know

That Christ the Lord is risen

And praise His name

He’s risen now in me

Because He lives

I’ll rise to life eternal!

He took my guilty heart

And I’m forever free!


Verse III
 
I cannot tell when He who rules the nations

How He will claim His loved ones as His own

And who can tell the holy jubilation

When all His children gather ‘round His throne.
 
 
But this I know, All flesh will see His glory

And skies will burst as all creation sings

The sun will rise on one eternal morning ~

When Christ the Savior of the world Is Lord and King

 



...See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.  Your name is continually before me.   Isaiah 49: 16

Holy Bible Old Testament NKJV
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

THE CHRIST CHILD ...THE STORY OF GOD'S LOVE


 
                                                                      
                                                   
                    A MAUVE-SPATTERED SUNSET
        Photo by Carole Castagna  ©9/2007

 
A chilly night with
myriad stars in the sky...
one lone star shines brightest to point the way...
 
The Christ-Child is born.

Psalm 8: 3,4,5
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him? 
or the son of man that You visit him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels
and You have crowned him with glory and honor."

Yet he was born in a manger to become the man of sorrows 
to die for our sins on a cross
on Calvary.
 
John 10: 14,15
"I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep and am known by my own.
And I lay down My life for My sheep.
 
John 10: 27,28
My sheep know my voice and they hear Me and they follow Me.
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand...My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.  I and My Father are one."
 
David wrote in Psalm 8 of his experience as a shepherd and his relationship with the sheep. The sheep were fully dependent on him for their needs and wellbeing. At one point, he said in prayer, ‘Your rod and your staff, they comfort me’.  Comfort is that state of wellbeing when one is at peace with oneself.  There is a sense of security, a peaceful calm is in the air and one feels completely safe.  The Lord was protecting David as well.  David's sheep sense calm and security as well.  At some level they may have sensed that the shepherd held in his hand the instruments of their safety, the rod and the staff with which to strike the predator and retrieve them if they fell in harm’s way.  Since 'all of us like sheep have gone astray', we can feel protection beneath the cross of Christ:  one short instrument (the horizontal wood-piece, like the rod) and one long instrument (the vertical wood-piece, like the staff) by which Christ struck the predator of our souls, Sin.
 
Psalm 23: 4  "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." 

The long staff - the short rod are instruments
of protection not of punishment.

Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection
bring us new life and bring a new
song to our hearts.
 
After 2000 years, the story of God's love holds strong:  it cannot be deleted.
It stands the test of time.   HE IS ALIVE...
 
THE CHRIST CHILD IS THE STORY OF GOD'S LOVE
FOR HUMANITY!
 
 
                                                                              A NEW DAY'S SONG
Psalm 104: 24
 
Photo by Carol Castagna   © 9/2007
 
 
   Why have so many people walked away from Him?

   By carol castagna © 11/2013
   NKJV Holy Bible

 

 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

LISTEN TO THE QUIET



 
Psalm 65: 8
Those who live at the edge of the earth stand in awe of your wonders.  From where the sun sets to where the sun rises, you inspire shouts of joy!

I am blessed here where I live, near the West Shoreline of Florida.  I can look out from my lanai and see the splendor of the night sky running to greet me.  And when I awaken, the lazy morning sun pours down on me as I listen to the grass grow ~ and I know that all peace reigns in my corner of the world.



                                                          © 11/2013 Photo by John Sgarlata


Weeping willows dancing in sweet abandon

Against an azure sky

Tomorrow will wait...

An oriole visits my porch and speaks a song

Written just for me - This moment is sweet solitude

Raindrops slide down my cheek and

Hush whispers to the pond

Listen ... sweet silence


Quiet splendor

Only Jesus and sunshine ~ a cool breeze

At this moment ... Listen to the Quiet ...
He is everywhere.


A Word About Prayer:

There are two elements of prayer:
...where we speak to God
...where God speaks to us

We may feel that the most important aspect of prayer is letting God know what we need (the 'speaking part' of prayer).  He already knows.  He still wants us to ask:  asking demonstrates to Him that we love and trust Him to direct our way.  Listening for the still, small voice of God is exquisitely important.  It is the 'listening part' of prayer that offers the soul nourishment:  it is where God's Holy Spirit hovers over us and fills us with God's presence and peace.  It is there, in those quiet moments with the Lord that He draws us nearer to Himself and His embrace.
Carol A. Castagna  
© 11/2013 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hospitality As It Relates to Being a Christian


 


Hospitality As It Relates to Being a Christian :

     If one stops to think about it, hospitality is synonymous with one's 'heart for God.'  In some instances, hospitality may come in the form of a warm welcome for family we have not seen for months or years. We prepare a lovely table setting, with our best china, stemware, silverware, napkins, tablecloth and add a vase of colorful flowers to the table ~ to express our joy at their arrival.  In many ways,  it reflects the stories of the women in the Bible who prepared food and lodging for family, friends and strangers who traveled many miles from their homes. These women killed, skinned and prepared the animal for consumption:  theirs was not an easy task.  Today, our task is easier but the message is the same:  Welcome!

     In other ways hospitality speaks to what Jesus has taught us:  The first and most poignant one I am thinking of is:  "You shall love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind"...this is the first and greatest commandment.  Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Matthew 22: 37.  And the second is similar:  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Leviticus 19: 18 and Matthew 22: 39.

     An example is that of the good Samaritan giving a cup of cold water to a stranger:  And Jesus said to him, "If you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me."...i.e., dressing wounds, comforting with words, listening to a friend's  grief, sharing joy in celebration.  The crowd did not undertand.  Jesus explained that our love, indeed, our expressions of love toward others is as if we are expressing our love to Him.

     In view of the previous verses, it would appear that hospitality is not limited to the home.  So, if hospitality does not refer only to welcoming people to our homes, what does it refer to?  I like to define hospitality as something that we as Christians bring with us wherever we go.  It is our unconditional acceptance of people, our willingness to listen, our welcoming embrace, our invitation to spend time together, our concern upon someone's loss, our joy upon someone's celebration ~ our concern and love.  Let me suggest that our home is probably the first place where our graciousness is seen, i.e., in the way we make someone feel welcome and at home which is an unfamiliar setting to them or the way our non-judgmental attitude speaks kindness. Our home could be considered an in-reach or an in-our-home reach.

     If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are conveying hospitality in the finest and most intimate sense.  In other words, we bring hospitality or a sense of welcome, to the person ~where he is.  We meet people along the way, each day:  unaware of their particular circumstance, we greet them.  One may need an encouraging word from the Lord, through us.  One may need a warm embrace that says we care, that says that Jesus cares about him/her.  A child may need an understanding heart to calm his fears.  Mother Teresa considered every adult and child that she met, to be, in essence, Jesus.  In other words, each person took the form of Jesus.  She dressed the wounds of the sick and poor, as though she were ministering to someone who was equally as important as Jesus  . She gave a cup of cold water as though she were giving it to Jesus.  Hers is an amazing story:  she brought her love for Jesus to the people on the streets of Calcutta.   Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Mudderidge is the story of a journalist's interview with Mother Teresa.   At the age of 80, this journalist, who was an atheist, became a convert (to Catholicism) as a result of his observation  of  Mother Teresa's example of Christ by her gift of self to the homeless of Calcutta.  If our goal, as Christians is to reach the lost for Christ, perhaps, then, hospitality is synonymous with our out-reach or our (out-in-the-world/field-reach), as well as our in-(home) reach.  As Christians we often show that we have a heart for missions, the down-trodden in other countries, the poor without food and water, warm clothes, or medical resources. We are hospitable to these strangers, Good Samaritans to people abroad and in the United States.  The Lord blesses our offerings.  
     In our  little corner of the world, though, around the corner, next door, up the street, we can show the same heart for missions, heart for God, or hospitality.  The mission field or our hospitality track may be right in our own backyard.  
     In this regard, this is still our outreach but we are bringing people in our surrounding area in to our homes (in-home) reach, which kind of gives a warm and cozy, comfortable feel to our mission.  Ultimately, the in-home reach becomes an extension of our out-reach to people in our corner of the world.


May the Love of My Jesus Surround You
A Song for You


May the love of my Jesus surround you
His love encompass, enthrall ~ yes, abide with you
Open your heart and receive Him, today!
His arms are opened ~ He'll show you the way

May the joy of my Jesus be your joy
His joy, unceasing, far-reaching be your joy.
Reach out, He's calling, 
He loves you, today!

He'll give love, joy, love
You'll bring Him praise!

Carol A. Castagna
copyright 11/2013





A POEM OF THANKSGIVING: JOY COMES IN THE MORNING





 Cactus Plants on my Kitchen Bay Window
 
JOY COMES IN THE MORNING

A POEM OF THANKSGIVING
AND REJOICING IN HIS PROMISE
Lord, You have turned my mourning into dancing
My night into the sweet glow of
Moonlight
You’ve touched my life with the might of your
Healing hand
And comforted my soul in the desert
Lord, when I walked through briar and thistle you guided my way
And lifted me close to your heart to breathe your sweet
Presence
My soul sings your praise for directing me God-ward
And upward
I am content to look toward heaven and to know the
Strength of your promise
It is you, oh God, my Portion, my Redeemer, my Joy
Who breathes new life into each new day
Stay with me as I grow old and await your return.
carol a. castagna copyright October 2012
ISAIAH 55: 12 AND 13      
“FOR YE SHALL GO OUT WITH JOY, AND BE LED FORTH WITH PEACE; THE MOUNTAINS AND THE HILLS SHALL BREAK FORTH BEFORE YOU INTO SINGING AND ALL THE TREES OF
THE FIELD SHALL CLAP THEIR HANDS.
         INSTEAD OF THE THORN SHALL COME UP THE FIR TREE, AND INSTEAD OF THE BRIER SHALL   COME   UP THE MYRTLE TREE; AND IT SHALL BE TO THE LORD FOR A NAME, FOR AN EVERLASTING SIGN THAT SHALL NOT BE CUT OFF.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

WE ARE NEVER ALONE




WE ARE NEVER ALONE

I feel that wherever I stand is an alter and whatever room I enter is a place of worship.
My Lord is always with me, His Spirit ever-present, His love always abounding.  How sweet is the song of His name.

Psalm 31:7
I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles and care about the anguish of my soul.

Anyone who has gone through the trials this life can bring, and has trusted in God's tender mercies and lovingkindness, can say in sweet gratitude, with the Psalmist, 'for you have seen my troubles and care about the anguish of my soul.'  

There is nothing as sacred as the closeness that comes through a relationship with our Savior:  it is immeasurably blessed and personal, comforting and empowering.  I grew up with the Lord since ever I can remember.   We receive strength to endure, peace in turmoil, comfort in loss and healing whether it be for ourselves or for others.  I am a woman of prayer and conviction and I treasure the closeness of my walk with the Lord.  I can do nothing of any worth without Him, for He goes before me in everything I do.  There is something called grace ~ God's kindness and favor toward those who put their trust in Him.  During the times when I failed Him (and we all fail Him in this life) He never left me.  He drew me even closer to Him by His faithfulness, mercy, forgiveness, love and grace. He is not the kind of friend who turns around and walks away because we have displeased him.  He is 'all in' with us, for the long haul.  His mercy endures forever.

PRAYER:
We come before you, dear Father, with grateful hearts because you know our needs and our heartaches~ because you know us by name...and are near to comfort us in our darkest hour.  Let us feel your presence and your warm embrace.  Comfort us in our desert.  Shower us with your love.  Lead us to your sunlight with your mighty power and glorious promise.  We praise you for the hope that you have offered us through your Son, Jesus Christ, who loves us and through His shed blood and resurrection, takes away the sin of the world.   Amen
© 11 - 2013  Carol T. Castagna

John 15:13 Greater love has no man than this, that  he lay down his life for his friends.
Psalm 91: 11
For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep you in all your ways.

New Testament, Holy Bible NKJV
Old Testament, Holy Bible NKJV



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

THE JOY WE SHARED




THE JOY WE SHARED


You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
 I Peter 1:8 (1)

The Breathing of One Joy:

When my Grandmother, Rose DeLucia, closed her eyes toward her journey to awaken on Heaven’s shore,  a big part of me just fell to the ground.  My world was shattered.  Nothing was the same.  I was down for the count.

I was hoping I could manage well without her – but I didn’t fare very well at all.   I lost a dear friend.  Grandma was the one with opened arms, a ready welcoming smile, a warm embrace, a ‘Hello Dah'ling!’  Not only did we share laughter, we breathed one joy ~ and it was that breathing of the same joy that was my constant.  Together, we breathed in the joy of the Lord, the joy of laughing and conversing, the joy of seeing each other and the joy of anticipating seeing each other again.  She was the first one with whom I felt a spiritual connection.  She knew who she was in the Lord and in this world.  Even-tempered, slow to judge, slow to anger, quick to heal, to cover a wound, quick-witted and wise, she was my friend.  How much like me, was she!  I found someone in this life who understood me without my having to explain!   And now, she was physically gone.  It's not that I was  unaware that she must leave this earth, some day.  It was that even though we think we are prepared to say our final good-bye, we simply are not prepared.  Oft times, my Grandmother's understanding was in her eyes or in her smile.  It was that palpable! And her hands, the hands of a seamstress, were as gentle as  her character was strong.  She held the Holy Bible and turned its pages as though she were sifting through gold – and she was – Truth’s gold.  The truth of the Christ of Calvary, the cross, the Resurrection and the opened tomb, Redemption, and Eternity flooded those hallowed pages.  I never really worked through the loss of her, thoroughly, though – the loss of my maternal Grandmother, this woman of God.  

It was lonely for a long, long time after Grandma passed.  It was during that time that the Lord gave me the lyrics and piano melody to Sonnet of Hope (on last week's JOY PSALMS! entry).  I play the music and read the words 'till today and I am comforted. .  One day I will see her again…the promise of eternity will come to pass and the breathing of one joy will resume brighter and more alive.   Heaven’s great splendor will blaze with the light of our Lord and Savior in our midst.  With loved ones surrounding us and Heaven's symphony resounding, earth's sadness will be but a disappearing pebble erased from memory's stream.  It will be replaced with 'joy unspeakable and full of glory.'  (2)
Prayer:
Thank you, dear Lord, for your promise that one day all tears shall be wiped away, that all things will be made new, that the days will need no sun because you, Lord, will be our bright and shining light.
In Jesus name,  Amen ….
© Nov. 2013    written by Carol T. Castagna
New Testament, Holy Bible NKJV
The Celebration Hymnal, Joy Unspeakable (c) 1997 by Word Music/Integrity        Music,  p.740

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

About Writing Music and God's Blessing on the Song:


ABOUT WRITING  MUSIC and GOD'S BLESSING ON THE SONG:


MUSIC DIRECTOR’S PRAYER FOR THE CHOIR:

“We come together this evening Lord in your Name. We are here because we love You and we pray that You will bless our efforts and bless our joy in serving You.

Dear Lord, thank You for watching over us during the week and for bringing us safely here. We pray that You will bless us as we devote the talents that You’ve so graciously bestowed upon us. Bless those on Sunday morning who will hear and sing the words to these songs…words that were written by composers who, following an experience with You, Lord…penned words down on paper…words that You have given to them, to be shared with those who long to hear.

Thank You for Your love, your strength, Your joy in serving You.”

In Jesus’ Name,   Amen



Excerpt from 'Man and His Music,' an essay by Carol Castagna.

"The embryo in the kernel of an artist’s mind is victor.  Restless, the pearl in the shell, this treasure, awakens and whispers its melody and soars to heights unknown.    This essence of brilliance and creativity declares his stance, immovable.  It will not be overcome by the winds of time.  It moves to emerge, to influence, to sing."          
                    Carol T. Castagna      
                         © October, 2012 
                         Library of Congress


II Corinthians 4:7
For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ… But we have this treasure, in earthen vessels that the Excellency of the power may be of God and not us.

A SONG for you:

   

                                                                                    BE STILL
A song of encouragement and faith 
        
“Be still and know that I am God today.”
Whispers His voice within.   “I’ll lead the way.
Trust me with all your heart
Lean not to your own way.
Trust me when naught you see
There’s grace for each new day
Believe, my child believe-
And it shall be-though in the mist of night
Soon morning light you’ll see”
His promise is our hope
His love, our joy and stay.
“Be still and know that
I am God today."
(c) October 2012
Carol Castagna
Lyrics and Melody

Another SONG for you:

Sonnet of hope

After the passing of my dear Grandmother (Rose) Raimonda DeLucia, the Lord gave me these words of comfort...    

How can my heart be lonely?

When I have Jesus always

Guiding me and walking by my side?

He is my Sunshine after rain –

And with me He abides

When days seem dark and empty-

My Friend reminds me softly

Just how much He cares about my grief

He fills me with new hope and peace –

And gives me sweet release

How is it that He loves me so?

My heart will never, never know

To bring such stillness after storm

To quiet my heart with comfort warm

My heart will never comprehend

His wondrous love and so I sing

How can my heart be lonely?

When I have Jesus always

Guiding me and walking by my side?

He is my Friend, my Joy, my Life and with Him I’ll abide.


© October, 2012
Lyrics and Melody

Carol T. Castagna

PSALM 37: 7

REST IN THE LORD AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM…


                                          

Monday, October 28, 2013

MY DAD: I KNEW HIS HEART


My Dad:  the world never knew his heart.  Oh, people knew he was a hard worker, a man who would not hesitate to remove his shirt and give it to you if you were in need; they knew he loved his wife and his daughter and had a great sense of humor, made you laugh, and  had the ability to listen to your heart.

What they didn't know, was this:  He was an avid reader; mostly American History, the Bible, Poems That Touch the Heart, by Alexander and enjoyed books on conservative politics. William Buckley was his favorite editorial writer.  He read Edgar Guest's poems, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg. He had a subscription to Poets and Writers...I found a few old, old copies long after he passed away. I found some writings of his, also:  it warmed my heart... This man, with a knack for beautifying everything he touched outdoors, from his rock-garden to his flagstone walk, merely accepted the fact that he worked at the Bridgeport Brass Company in a basement with no windows, cutting dies with precision for a living for forty-five years – and worked almost incessantly as an artist after work, either sketching, or building stone walks and walls and fireplaces or working in his garden.  (Our family called the landscaped acre behind our home, our Park.)   Yes, Dad made it into a park of his own.  He would never take credit, though, for any of its beauty …he would say with humility “I just plant the seeds and God does the rest.” 


I remember the newspaper covering used to protect his head that he would fold in place, with the same precision he used when measuring a cement walk, when he was working outside on a very hot day.  Dad fastidiously folded each corner to result in a raised oval covering above his ears.  It shaded him from the sun …He would wear it while he was pouring cement in the hot sun, whistling all the while, (usually, Jimmie Crack Corn or Little Jimmie Brown~the Chapel Bells Were Ringing)  enjoying what he was doing, proud of a job well done when he finished his work.

Dad played the harmonica and sang in a rich baritone voice.  In fact, he sang hymns most of the time he was planting outside in his gardens or while he was doing masonry on the walks or walls surrounding the gardens or leading to the home. He sang while driving.  If I listen long enough, I can almost hear him singing, Shall We Gather by the River, Yes, I Know, Jesus Blood can make the vilest sinner clean, Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago.  Whistling was another of his favorite pass-times.  So, music was always in his mind and heart.  One beautiful thing, among many, that he said to me is:  "You take words, put them down on paper, and make them smile.'

The following poem, Cheers, my tribute to him, was written for and read to my Dad long before he passed away...


CHEERS


A Letter to Dad



Here's to you, Dad


To your skills as a builder of houses and dreams


To your craft, etched with precision


To the work of your hands


Through the years of your life

Thank you for building my world.


Here's to you, Dad

To your strength of character - to your acceptance of life in the raw

To your readiness to forgive - to your caution in judging

Thank you for the heart you try to conceal,

For letting me see your imperfections thereby making it

Possible for me to embrace my own.


Here's to you, Dad

To your love of life and God and people

To your spirit - to your sacrifice - to your sense of humor and the

Raconteur within you - to your quest for knowledge

(My self-taught dad with a genius all your own)

Thank you for pursuing life in spite of its storms that rage

Thank you for teaching me to smile

Your heart is an open book - It teaches humility and hope and courage

The words speak echoes of truth ~ and
Proclaim Christ's promise for an Eternity without pain.                           

Your loving daughter, Carole


 Carol T.Castagna
  ©  October 2012
  Library of Congress




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