June 23, 2024 – Encountering God

Philippians 4:4-7

Be glad in the Lord always! Again, I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Encountering God

Music has been a formative part of my life and faith journey.  I began taking piano lessons at the age of 5 after many months of begging my mom. Playing the piano, and participating in choir and other ensembles throughout my school years, helped me with anxiety and gave me confidence to express myself and connect with others. As a pastor’s kid I moved around almost every 3 years and this was very hard on a shy, quiet, sensitive kid.  I also had the added stress of my mom being mostly absent for my formative tween / teenage years due to mental health struggles.  Music became a pathway for me to not only express myself and connect with God but also a way to learn more about who God is. Our hymns and worship songs contain a lot of rich theology, and while I did read the Bible as a child, I probably learned more about who God is through music. For the next two weeks, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite songs.  This week we will focus on songs that allow us to encounter God revealing who God is and who we are in relation to God. And next week the songs will focus on our response to God. 

The first song I’ll share is Abide With Me. I recorded this piece as an offering for my zoom graduation ceremony from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.  The song begins: 

“Abide with me, fast falls the eventide

The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide

When other helpers fail and comforts flee

Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.” 


Isn’t this a good place to begin our journey? As people of faith this is a good practice, to ask God to abide with us, to be with us, to strengthen us. I think for people who may not even know God yet, they call out with this prayer, to be safe, to be comforted. Let’s invite God to abide with us today.

Our next song is a piece I used to play often when I was the pianist for Hutchinson First UMC – Be Thou My Vision. Carolee Syres, a long-time member and music educator, said this was one of her favorites. And her love of the song was always an encouragement for me to keep playing. Prior to playing for Hutchinson First UMC it had been quite a long time since I had played the piano regularly. I think I was in a drought from spending time raising small children, and going to school.  This song reminds me that God should be our vision above all, above riches, above accolades and recognition. God is the one whom we should keep our eyes fixed upon.  The song reminds us that God is with us and dwells within us.

“Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord

Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son

Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one”

Our next song is Amazing Grace. I’m sure this is a favorite for many of us. This song reminds me of the grace and love offered by God through Jesus. For many of us, this is our first encounter with God to experience God’s grace. No matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been, God’s grace is abundant enough for all of us. 

Our next song is What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and it’s such a good reminder that God wants to have a relationship with us and is there for all of life’s ups and downs.  Even when we don’t feel like we have another friend in the world, God is there to walk with us and comfort us.

Our final song is Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love jazzy, gospel style songs. And this one is just a joy to play.  I also love it because it reminds me that God’s love and strength is everlasting; I can lean on God. I have nothing to fear. I can trust in God.

This is just a sample of the many songs I love. Thank you for letting me share them with you today. And may you know that no matter what you’re going through in life, you can lean on God because God loves you and cares for you. Amen.  ~ Deacon Jeanne