Archive for November, 2013

Colossians 3:15: Another reminder to give thanks

November 22, 2013

Colossians 3:15, the Verse of the Day for November 22, 2013, offers another reminder to be thankful:

Colossians-3-Verse-15postWhen we look at the context of verse 15 and read the next two verses as well, we find a wonderful “gratitude sandwich” with three references to being thankful, as noted in the New Living Translation:

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

In light of our being in the “Thanksgiving season,” we find that in its most basic sense, “thanksgiving” is the application of an essential principle of life: giving and receiving. When one gives, one receives, and always in greater proportion than one gives. Although many people think of giving and receiving in terms of tithes and offerings or of giving of material abundance within a church or religious context, the universal principle works in all aspects of life—particularly in “thanksgiving.”

As Christian believers, giving thanks to God for His grace and goodness is a positive expression that reverses negative thinking patterns.  A heavy dose of “thanksgiving” will counter the potentially crippling negative effects of fear, anger, disappointment, discouragement, despair and any other toxic emotions of life. We cannot truly be thankful and feel fearful or disappointed at the same time, nor can we be angry or discouraged when we see all that God has done for us and express our gratitude to Him at the same time. Certainly we cannot simultaneously sink to the depths of despair when we recognize how blessed we have been thus far, as we anticipate even greater blessings on the horizon, for the best is always yet to come with God, our beneficent Father.

God desires that we show ourselves grateful at all times, as Colossians 3:17 reminds us:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Feeling disappointed, discouraged, and in despair or having other negative feelings is sometimes described as “stinkin’ thinkin’” which can directly affect how we act. One of the critical factors in our physical and emotional well-being is attitude. Of course, we must remember that “attitude begins with gratitude.” J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless good will.”

For believers, maintaining such an attitude of gratitude is our magnificent and joyful “response-ability”; that is, our ability to respond to God’s love and grace. We endeavor to demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our hearts, overflowing with thanks. More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude.”

More than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than simply tithing or sharing of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, we express our gratitude to God in everything we say and do. It is always an appropriate time to give thanks to God. One of the songs I recall from years ago declares, “Now is the right time to praise the Lord!” No matter the circumstances, no matter the conditions, weather-wise or otherwise, we are to follow this exhortation:

In happy moments, praise God.

In difficult moments, seek God.

In quiet moments, worship God.

In painful moments, trust God.

In every moment, thank God.

At All Times

I will bless the Lord at all times,

His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

 

When God’s goodness and mercy follow closely,

And we savor the ecstasy of victory,

When joy overflows and floods our souls, we will praise God.

 

When gripped by the devices of this transient life

And caught in the straits of rising conflict and strife,

During these difficult moments, we will seek God.

 

When we long to abide within a tranquil mood

And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,

From the depths of our souls, we will worship God.

 

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,

When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs the brain

So that we can scarcely scream your name, we will trust God.

 

All along life’s journey, no matter the season,

Through every why and wherefore, for every reason

Every moment we draw breath, we will thank God.

 

We seek the Lord and ask ourselves, “What shall we do?”

“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

Don Moen offers this moving reminder to “Give Thanks”:

 

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Grace, mercy and peace: A three-fold cord

November 21, 2013

1_Corinthians_1-4

The Verse of the Day for November 21, 2013 is found in I Corinthians 1: 4-5

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

As I reflected on these verses, I thought of 1 Peter 1:2 which ends with the greeting “Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

2 Peter 1:2 indicates the source of this multiplication:

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

Jude 1:2 adds two more virtues:

Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.

In thinking about grace, mercy and peace, I recall the lyrics to an original song:

Grace, mercy, and peace,

from God the Father

from God the Father

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

Gracious Lord, gracious Lord, gracious Lord,

Full of grace and mercy

Gracious Lord, gracious Lord, gracious Lord,

Where sin abounded, grace prevailed for me

Without amazing grace, where would I be?

You bless with grace, mercy and peace.

We speak peace and the storms of life shall cease.

Lord, God who protects His own.  You are Jehovah Shalom

The peace of God from the God of peace.

 

You are gracious, Lord.

You are gracious, Lord.

You are gracious, Lord.

2 John 3

The theme of “grace, mercy and peace” also inspired this poem:

Grace, Mercy, and Peace: A Three-fold Cord                                        

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Dr. John Fawcett

 

 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son:

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father

and Christ Jesus our Lord

2 Timothy 1:2

 

Grace, mercy, and peace bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

These three traits never diminish but only increase.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

 

Grace: a priceless gift that no one on earth can afford.

God’s great grace abounds toward us and shall never decrease.

Grace, mercy, and peace bind our hearts as three-fold cord.

 

That God is truly merciful cannot be ignored.

Streams of the sure mercies of the Lord shall never cease.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

 

Peace cancels all strife, but we must live in one accord.

All those who are bound the Word of the Lord will release.

Grace, mercy, and peace bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

 

All who seemed forsaken, God, our Father, has restored.

As we seek God, we find that in His will is our peace.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

 

Boundless love and favor are waiting to be explored,

For we are so designed to shine as God’s masterpiece.

Grace, mercy, and peace bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

 

Fernando Ortega provides a tender reminder of the source of grace and peace:

We are confident that God’s grace and peace are multiplied to us this day and every day.

 

Thanksgiving Day is a week away: Is it really?

November 20, 2013

The Verse of the Day for November 20, 2013 is found in Psalm 95: 1-2:

Psalm 95 1 2 310904561

Verse 2 with its exhortation to “come before his presence with thanksgiving” is a reminder that we are in the “Thanksgiving season.” At this time of year there is an almost automatic association with turkey and dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie (or sweet potato pie, depending upon your ethnic tastes). For Christians, however, thanksgiving is more than a holiday observed the fourth Thursday in November. Actually, “Thanksgiving” is always appropriate. “Thanksgiving” is the reason, not only for this season, but “thanksgiving” should be the reason for every season.

When I use the term “thanksgiving,” I look at the word in its most literal sense, meaning “to give thanks” or “to show one’s self grateful.”  It is an expression of gratitude, a form of prayer specified in I Timothy which speaks of “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving. . . .

As Christian believers, expressing thanks to God for His grace and goodness should never be confined to a single period of time.  God desires that we show ourselves grateful at all times.  Scriptures remind us of this truth in a number of places:

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

A similar reminder is found in Ephesians 5:20:

 Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God reveals that the giving of thanks is to be more than an occasional act of gratitude; it is to be an ongoing part of our lives.

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Perhaps the most dramatic reminder to live in continuous thanksgiving is found in I Thessalonians 5:18:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ.

Every situation offers an opportunity to be thankful, no matter how bright or bleak life may be. We can always find something to be thankful for something, if for nothing more than that we are alive or that our situation could be worse.  We can begin with thanking God that we are alive and then adding to the long list of blessings we are enjoying at that moment.  Each time we set our minds to be thankful, we are doing the will of God, the innermost desire of every believer.

More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” which some have called “thanksliving.”  The essence of our attitude of endless gratitude is expressed in this poem:

Thanksliving

 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God

in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I Thessalonians 5:18

 

What shall we render to the Lord for all

His grace?  What can we say to offer praise

Worthy of His glory?  How can we call

With all our being upon His name and raise

A new song from the depths of our heart?

We must do more than mouth a platitude–

To express our soul in words is an art;

Yet words cannot express our gratitude.

Our words are empty and without merit.

“Thank you” too soon becomes a hollow phrase.

So we must worship God with our spirit

And must give thanks well for all of our days.

To live is give thanks with tongue and limb;

With each breath, each move, let us live thanks to Him.

 

Marantha! Singers offer a rousing rendition of “He Has Made Me Glad,” reminding us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.”

We joyfully come before God’s presence with thanksgiving, not just the week before Thanksgiving Day, but every hour of every day of every week of every year.

Psalm 1: The first word

November 19, 2013

Psalm 1 3

The Verse of the Day for November 19, 2013, is found in the first two verses of the First Psalm:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

When I think of the First Psalm, I recall the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory. More than 60 years ago, back in the day, in what we called “junior high school,” I remember that Mrs. Little, the local undertaker’s wife, gathered kids from the neighborhood and told us to memorize Psalm 1, which I did and still recall by heart to this day.

Listen to the musical accompaniment, as you read the Psalm 1 in the King James Version, the version which I memorized:

About seven years ago, Apostle John Tetsola commented about the power of “The First Word” and his remarks inspired this poem which makes reference to the First Psalm, the “First Word” for me:

The First Word                                    

When you’re in a difficult situation,

go back to ‘the first word.’ It still works.

Apostle John Tetsola

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

Just like Samuel, I clearly heard God speak to me:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

The desire to read and to learn by heart God’s Word:

Planted deep within my soul seeds of destiny.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

Early years of famine and drought God has restored.

My Shepherd ever sets a table before me.

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

From an early age God became my shield and sword,

As the Psalms enflamed a passion for poetry.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

The sound words of the First Psalm could not be ignored:

“Planted by the rivers of waters, like a tree. . .”

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

Striving toward the finish, ever pressing forward,

I now fondly recall glimpses of God’s glory.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

Kim Hill offers this musical rendering of the First Psalm:

The Verse of the Day floods my mind with fond memories of the power of “the First Word.”

Let go of the past: Choose to forgive

November 18, 2013

The Verse of the Day for June 10, 2014 encourages believers to forgive one another:

Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:13 KJV

Here is the verse in the Amplified Bible:

13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].

This verse brought to mind a previous blog entry on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe entitled “Forget the past: Choose to forgive” which I have re-posted :

hands 2

In a prophetic word of exhortation Bobby Conner speaks of “The grace to forgive past disappointments” and refers to situations in our past whereby we have experienced the pain of disappointment. In such instances we recognize that we have been “brokenhearted” once again,

Conner mentions that “the Hebrew word translated brokenhearted is shabar, an extremely vivid and powerful adjective that means maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, quenched, and violently ruptured.” He goes on to say, “We can take courage by understanding that the Lord’s very purpose in coming, as He Himself declared early on, was to “bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1), to heal our disappointed hearts and restore hope to our innermost being. He understands deeply that we are brokenhearted by sin and failures and He has compassion for our souls.

When we are confronted with past disappointments and failures where the wounds that we thought were fully healed become painful once more, we must let go of the past and choose to forgive. Conner asks, How do we do this?

“By choosing to forgive those who have hurt you, betrayed you, left you or wronged you. And choose to forgive yourself for your reactions to these injustices or for your own betrayals. You let go of the past by believing that God will restore to you anything and everything that was taken, including love, relationships, time, money, dreams, hopes, talents.”

What does it mean to forgive?

To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor). Someone has said, “I forgive when I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me.”

Literally to forgive means to “give for.” You give to those who choose not to give. This poem by John Oxenham expresses a profound truth about love and giving:

Love ever lives, outlives forgives,

And while it stands with open hands it lives,

For this is love’s prerogative:

To give and give and give.

You actually could keep adding “and give” to last line ad infinitum, for such love expresses endless giving.

Jesus Christ, of course, is the quintessential example of forgiveness. As he is dying on the cross, having been brutalized and humiliated beyond any atrocious behavior inflicted upon any mortal, among the last words spoken by the Lord are recorded in Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Some of the lyrics to the song “Please Forgive Me” reinforce this truth.

God first gave to us so that we might live.

We give to others when we learn to forgive.

Jesus, our example so perfect and true,

Said, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

I forgive you. I forgive you.

I forgive you. I forgive you.

I forgive you this time. I forgive you each time.

I forgive you.

When we practice forgiving, we apply the principle of “giving and receiving.”

Luke 6:38 relates this principle:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

When we forgive, we also recall another expression of truth by Jesus who said, “It more blessed to give than to receive.”  In a situation where one person offers forgiveness and another receives forgiveness. Who is most blessed? I often say, “When you choose to give, you cannot lose, but when you choose not to give, you cannot win.” In his book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall states,

“Forgiveness is not total forgiveness until we bless our enemies—and pray for them to be blessed. Forgiving them is a major step; totally forgiving them has fully been achieved when we set God free to bless them. But in this, we are the first to be blessed, and those who totally forgive are blessed the most.”

When it comes to abounding in God’s grace and abiding in His will,

I Choose to Forgive

I choose to forgive and to release from payment,

To clear the account and forgo the debt once more.

Though rightfully owed to me, I choose to forgive,

To be gracious, in spite of the ingratitude.

My desire is to be kind and tenderhearted;

Even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me,

I rise to the occasion of the Word of God.

Not keeping a record of any wrongs suffered,

I seek to walk in the footsteps of the Savior.

As Joseph, in compassion, assured his brothers

What Satan meant for evil, God fashions for good,

Widen my vision to see a much more grand scope:

May I also see all things working together

For the good, even in perilous times as these.

 

Matthew West captures the essence of this virtue in the powerful song “Forgiveness”:

Psalm 119: 105–A lamp unto my feet

November 17, 2013

psalm 119 105

The Verse of the Day for November 17, 2013 is taken from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. Another the unique aspect of this particular Psalm is its reference to the Word of God in every verse, employing such synonyms as “statues, Law, judgments, precepts, etc. One of the most familiar metaphors used to describe the Scriptures is found in Psalm 119:105 which speaks of God’s Word as a lamp. This particular verse was among the first scripture memory songs that I ever composed with the following lyrics:

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet.

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path.

 

When I am in the dark

And cannot find my way,

I open up the Bible

To see what God will say.

I look and find the answer

And then I gladly obey.

 

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path.

 

When you have a problem,

And you don’t know what to do,

Just open up the Bible

See what God says to you.

Just look and find the answer.

Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”

 

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet.

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

God’s Word is a lamp, a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 is the inspiration for this beautiful worship composition “Lamp unto My Feet” by Hillsong

Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant also offer another song: “Thy Word is a Lamp unto My feet.”

 

 

Trouble and Anguish: Peace in the midst of the storm

November 15, 2013

psalm 119--143

The Verse of the Day for November 15, 2013 makes reference to trouble and anguish that so often overtake us, particularly in the midst the turbulent times in which we live. Many times in the midst of trouble and anguish, we cry out to God and utter this prayer, as we ask God to:

Protect Us

As children run to safety in their father’s arms,

So we, too, run to you, “our shelter from life’s storms.”

Lord, we long to dwell with you in the secret place,

Our buckler, our shield, deliverer, our fortress,

Strong tower, defender, who responds to our prayers.

For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish us

And protect us and deliver us from evil.

 

Trouble and anguish, inseparable companions that accompany the storms of life, continually confront us. I recall a statement by Dr. David Jeremiah regarding the cycles of life: that we are either in the midst of a storm, either we have just come through a storm or we are preparing to enter a new storm. This reality brings to mind this poem:

This Ever-present Truth

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,

which lifts up the waves of the sea.

They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths;

Their soul melts because of trouble.

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

Then they are glad because they are quiet;

so He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:25-26, 29-30

 

As we navigate through the stages of our lives,

Mild breezes that caress our days are soon transformed

Into wild gales and floods, as one more storm arrives.

Despite this ever-present truth, we are alarmed

And unprepared for life’s torrential winds and rain,

As the raging storm center races toward our shore,

Gathering force and mounting into a hurricane.

We find ourselves near the eye of the storm once more.

The whirlwind soon passes over and leaves behind

Rising flood waters that would overwhelm the soul,

But through prayer and strong faith we know that we shall find

Courage to endure, though each storm exacts its toll.

God prepares us to go through howling gusts and rain,

With strength between storms, ready to go through again.

 

Kim Hopper offers a moving rendition of this reminder that God gives peace in the midst of the storm:

1 Peter 2:15-16—A servant doing the will of God

November 13, 2013

1 Peter 2--15-16 2

As a servant of God, someone who is concerned about finding and doing the will of God, the Verse of the Day for November 13, 2013 really resonated with me.  My blog entry on the Verse of the Day for yesterday focused on the will of God, and I indicated that I had touched upon the subject in previous entries. Similarly in thinking of myself as one who serves the Lord with gladness, I have discussed this particular designation of “servant” or “bondslave” on numerous occasions.  Both of these concepts encircle the two verses from 1 Peter 2:15-16: A reference to “the will of God” opens the passage, while the phrase “servants of God” closes the second verse.

Yesterday’s blog entry included a poem entitled “The Will of God” which was part of a set of poems based on that subject.  The second poem in the series is perfectly suited to today’s verse:

The Will of God II

“The will of God, nothing less, nothing more, nothing else”

Anonymous

 

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God

in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

 I Thessalonians 5:18

 

God unfolds before me the mystery of His will.

I may not fully understand, but I will nod

In agreement that I still say yes to His will

Despite the rugged mountain terrain I have trod,

I persist and press on to fully do His will.

In everything give thanks: this is the will of God.

At all times and places I can fulfill His will.

Whatever comes my way I will serve Him until

The day when He calls me home or Christ returns.

I align my will with His until the two are one.

Ever the eager servant, I am one who learns

To humbly say, “Not my will but Yours be done.”

The will of God, nothing less, nothing more, nothing else,

But truly doing the will of God is something else.

 

As a bondslave of the Lord, endeavoring to do the will of God, here are more reflections on the subject.

Colossians 1:9: The knowledge of His will

November 12, 2013

Colossians_1-9

In reflecting on the Verse of the Day for November 12, 2013, the phrase “the knowledge of His will” was highlighted in my mind.   I began to consider deeply this verse that emphasizes “The Will of God,” the place where I ever desire to be found. As is so often the case, when I wax reflective, I also wax poetic, and in this case, I thought of a particular poem that is part of a quartet of original poems centering on “The Will of God.” Colossians 1:9 especially relates to this poetic expression:

The Will of God

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery.

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge.

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

Albert Schweitzer

 

My food is to do the will of Him who sent me,

and to finish His work.

John 4:34 [NKJV]

                                                

To unearth at last the world’s most priceless treasure

And gaze upon the splendor of God’s sovereignty

Is to savor joy unspeakable beyond measure:

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery.

To know intimacy beyond the highest degree,

A confident assurance when I acknowledge

And embrace the path, the destiny, prepared for me:

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge.

To live life, knowing I am covered by the Blood

Is to walk with no regret, never to lament,

For all decisions work together for the good:

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

Guided and protected by the Shepherd’s staff and rod,

I rejoice to find, to know and do the will of God.

Numerous songs have been written related to” the will of God.” In fact, a previous blog entry on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe contains a quartet of poems and songs centering on “The Will of God.” Three are original, and the last one is anonymous. Between each poem is a video of a song related to “The Will of God.” Here is the link:

https://drlej.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/reflections-on-the-will-of-god-a-quartet-of-poems-and-songs/

A song connected to this particular poem is written by Deb Zemke; “His Will” is played and sung by Robert Jason.

Reflecting on the “the knowledge of His will” is a great way to start the day.

Isaiah 1:18: Whiter than snow

November 9, 2013

Isaiah 1 18

The Verse of the Day for November 9, 2013 is found in Isaiah 1:18 which speaks of purifying presence of snow that covers the earth in winter, even as God cleanses our souls from sin to make us “whiter than snow.” The verse brings to mind the silent splendor of falling snow, a glorious sight that reminds us that God has made everything beautiful in its time. I recall marveling at the beauty of  the Ohio landscape, as the winter scene unfolded  in breath-taking splendor, inspiring this poetic description that opens with the Verse of the Day:

   Frosted Wood Scene

“Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD,

though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

                                                  Isaiah 1:18

 

The stark nakedness

of the dark bark

blooms with crystal leaves.

Where death once reigned,

blossoms now flourish,

even as grace

did much more abound

and flower as

graceful almond trees.

I stand enraptured,

surrounded by

the fragile beauty

of the landscape

etched in a fuller

white than any

angel’s bright raiment.

The frosted wood scene

shows God’s design

to cleanse and make whole

the soul of man

that he might surely

know the pure love

that cleanses, covers

whiter than snow,

Lord, whiter than snow.