Garment of Praise

Light snowflakes swirl and tumble tangling above and below each other. Every now and again one blows right into the window as if to say hello and then twirls away again…around and around, up and down. The sun peers slightly out of the cloud covered sky. One lonely snowflake sprints across my field of view trying in vain to catch his friends who have all but vanished.

The branches on the leafless tree sway. What looks barren and lost will soon bloom with life. How do I know? Not by what my eyes can see. For all I see is death. But what is bearing no fruit – what looks dead on the outside is bursting with life on the inside. I am powerless to form one bud on the tree. My construction paper bud taped on the branch is indeed no life at all. It’s a lie, an illusion.

How am I so certain life will come again? Because I’ve seen the process year after year sitting in the same black recliner looking out the same window. The autumn leaves display a show of grand colors before they shrivel and float to the ground, the snow lays heavy on the branches until tiny buds burst into life. I know it because I have seen it to be true in the past. I trust because I have no reason not to believe it will happen again.

Today,  sound is muffled by the blanket of snow on the ground, I still my soul. For in the stillness I see God. I know the sun will shine again, the birds will chirp again, the warm winds will blow again.

Today, I don’t ask why the seasons change. I acknowledge One’s power greater than mine. I don’t wish and long for spring for I know that life with only pleasure brings no joy at all. Without the hard moments, there would be no easy ones. Without the hurt, we can not appreciate the depths of pleasure. Spring without winter would just be normal, mundane, boring.

I trust the One who sees all, who knows all and is working this moment for good. Winter brings life. Without the cold, the insect population would explode bringing destruction to the tree. In cold, the tree holds energy in reserve for building new life. The excess must be pruned from the tree so its structure will be strong and healthy. Pruning in the dormant time stimulates new growth while trimming in the active time stresses the tree.

And when the winter seems endless, I still praise Him. For who am I but an imitator of the True One with my construction paper fruit and duck tape? With palms open, I utter not my will but Thine. I sit in the dead of winter and I waste not the still moments by wishing for spring.

“to provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3


*The above ramblings come from processing some of what we have been learning in church about praise. I am learning praise is more than a moment of worship music or positive words.  Praise is a place I set my mind by acknowledging God is bigger than my understanding, and he is working all things for good. I choose praise when I shift my eyes from my circumstances to God, releasing my expectations of a life without problems.  Instead of searching endlessly for the why praise sets my heart on God’s faithfulness and love.  

 

Does pain have a purpose?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

I don’t like pain.  If I have a headache, I run for the aspirin. When physical pain arrives my goal is to stop the pain. That’s what the TV commercials tell us, right?

Getting you back to normal – Tylenol
All Day Strong. All Day Long. – Aleve
Advil. Stronger than Pain
Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is – Alka Seltzer

These verses in James challenge me to shift my thinking. Bumping up against difficult people, circumstances beyond our control, physical pain or other hard things isn’t necessarily bad.   I used to pray my children would have an easy life. But, I realize now that won’t do them any favors.

 Faith develops in trials.

Joy comes not because I like what’s happening, but because the trial is developing character in me.  I trust that God is who He says He is – and He will do what He says He will do.

Instead of me needing to control all that is around me,  I can rest my hand in my Father’s loving hand, realizing He is God, my Creator, and Maker. He loves me, and He is all I need no matter what is happening to me on this earth.

I’m not sure we can grow without pain. So, what at first glance looks like an inconvenience, disruption, or worse, is shaping us into the best version of ourselves – if we let it.

I’m thankful for Tylenol and all for enjoying life to its fullest. But, when I run up against the things I can’t or shouldn’t fix I know it’s time to grab my big girl panties. Just because something doesn’t feel like it’s for my best doesn’t mean it isn’t.

The goal isn’t to stop the pain
The goal is to be mature and complete.

Trials develop endurance.  Endurance is the staying power that no matter how hard something is, I won’t give up. Quitting is not an option. Why? Because God is good and will use this for good. Because it will be all worth it one day.


Thank you, Jesus, for the peace in knowing you don’t waste my pain.  Thank you for giving me joy in knowing the things though things seem bad you can use them for good.  I want to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Thank you for being faithful and loving. I come with open palms knowing you are a good, good Father.


Challenge: One thing that helps me is to write out a verse on a 3×5 card and put it in my pocket.  Reading it throughout the day encourages me and helps me keep a true perspective on my circumstances.  Choose a verse from below or pick your own. Write it on a 3×5 card or use a dry erase marker and write it on the mirror in your bathroom.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalms 136:1

Why do we pray in Jesus name?

In Jesus name.

My eyes look over the words I’ve so carelessly prayed so for so many years. As a child, we are trained to pray in Jesus name as if it’s a magic formula. If you don’t beat the eggs before you add them to the pancakes, the pancakes will be flat. If you don’t pray in Jesus name, God won’t hear you.

Baloney. God isn’t sitting in heaven drumming his fingers and saying, “I got you! I’m not going to help you because you didn’t pray right!” When we pray in Jesus name – it’s like the king’s wax seal on the envelope.  The seal signifies power and authority.

There is power in Jesus name. If I come to God in my own name – I have nothing to stand on. I am a sinner who can’t do enough to make up for all the wrong I’ve done. It’s through the blood of Jesus I am clean. I am not only permitted but encouraged to approach the throne of grace so I can find help in my time of need.

If I come to God in my own name – I have nothing to stand on. I can’t do enough to make amends for all the wrong I’ve done. It’s through the blood of Jesus I am made clean. God not only permits us but encourages us to approach the throne of grace so we can find help in our time of need.

When I pray in Jesus name, I am acknowledging my position and show dependence on Jesus. God sees me through the blood of Jesus. I am clean; I am forgiven, I am a child of God. The resurrection power is alive in me. In Jesus Name.

 

From fear to hope

I feel so small and alone, standing by the Christmas tree. Tears seep from the corner of my eye and fall unnoticed. I feel frozen in time, invisible. I scream. No one turns their head – no one notices -no one helps…I don’t know what to do. Have you ever felt completely alone and afraid?

Kind David did.

His worst fears were confirmed when he found out Saul was trying to kill him.  While trying to escape, one of Saul’s spies recognized him.  He freaked out and ran to the hometown of none other than Goliath. When he got there, things went from bad to worse. The king recognized him and so David decided the best means of escape was to act insane.

Talk about being alone, scared, and not knowing what to do! In Psalm 34 David shares his thoughts during that time of fear and running in his life.

5 Steps to Hope

1. Praise – In the middle of fear, David focuses on God’s power, love, and mercy.

Psalms 34:1-3 “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” 

2. Pray – He then turns to God for help, guidance, and deliverance.

Verses 4-6 “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. The poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” 

3. Shift your focus – In the middle of messy circumstances, David acknowledges that God is good. He can’t be anything less that good – because that’s who God is.

Verse 8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”

4. Fear God – He runs to God and takes refuge in Him. He chooses to seek peace -knowing that no matter what is going on around Him, God is with him and working all things for good.

Verses 8b-14 “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

5. Deliverance – David rests assured that even though the situation may not change, He is not alone. God will be with him all the way through whatever he is facing.

Verse 7 “The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Verse 20 “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”

Verse 18 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”


Like David, I know God is good. He is redeeming the years the locust have eaten.  There is no guarantee I won’t face scary circumstances again, but I do know I won’t have to face them alone.  I am not unseen and unnoticed -I am delivered, answered, saved, redeemed, safe, heard and lacking no good thing. God, is my refuge. Angels are encamped around me. The same truths David prayed are true today. I can rest in a God that is unchanging, eternal and always good.

 

 

12 Tips for a Full Thanksgiving

As you are snuggling in bed reviewing the day’s events, what would you want to have happened to make Thanksgiving day perfect? I recently asked this question on Facebook and here are a few answers.

Lots of mashed potatoes -and everyone getting along

Family togetherness – A room thick with love as everyone stands around the Christmas tree holding hands and singing carols.

Sleep in (or at least 5 hours straight), have everything prepped ahead, hang with my littles a lot, and do dishes together

Everyone made it safely to our house and just had a great time all being together.

Nothing gets burned or over/under cooked

Being with family.

Family, serenity, good food and love

Peace. Encouragement to others. Rest. Love shared with those we come in contact with.

If by some miracle I could see all my family! (And walk to the top of the hill after dinner!)

No migraine headaches for anyone (good, pain free day for those suffering from chronic illness)

Out of 365 days a year, Thanksgiving is my favorite day when it comes to food. I love the smell of turkey, a plate piled high with carbs and sugar. Followed by the resulting food coma that defies the self-control and calorie counting I practice most other days of the year.  Health, Food, family, love, unity – what more could we ask for?

We all shop, prep, set the timer and pray the turkey is moist and stuffing not too dry. By being intentional we create an atmosphere of success. Want to set the day up for the unity and love? Me too. Here are some ideas to get the juices flowing.  Pick one or two – tweak them to fit your needs. Have fun and live loved!

12 Tips to a Full Thanksgiving

  1. Thankful Circle. Pass around a bag of M&M’s and have each person take as many as they want.  Then go around the table and then for each M&M share one thing for which you are thankful.
  2. I Like You Because. Have each person write their name on a post-it note. Then pass the paper to the right. Write one word to describe that person and pass it to the right.  Continue around the circle until you get your own paper back.  I love this activity.  You will then have a paper with all the character qualities others appreciate about you.
  3. Live loved.  Give yourself and those around you grace.  Holidays can be some of the hardest times.  Long after people have forgotten the food and trimmings of the day they will remember how you made them feel.
  4. Laugh.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  5. Do a 360. Ask yourself “what is it like to live with me?” Live like someone you’d want to hang around.
  6. Be a blessing.  No matter how good/bad your circumstances are, turn the focus off how you feel or what you want to loving and serving others. You will be amazed at how much happier you are.
  7. Be Still. Slip away for 10 minutes in the morning before all the hustle begins.  Spend 2 minutes on each activity (or more if you have time)
    1. Yoga or stretching
    2. Write out three things you are thankful for
    3. Read Psalms 136
    4. Pray and thank God for the blessings you have
    5. Visualize in your mind how you see the ideal day playing out
  8. Take a walk. Breathe the fresh air. Have a bonfire. Play some flag football.
  9. I love my family because… before the meal, pause and have each person share what they love about their family.
  10. Play Boardgames.
  11. Take pictures.  Group pictures.  Silly pictures. Action pictures.  Have fun with it.
  12. Make Thanksgiving cards. Give each family member a card or letter sharing why you are thankful they are in your life.