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Psalm 18:33 on My Mind

NewOMMLast week I invited you to join me in five weeks with Psalm 18:32-36. We focused on verse 32. Today we’re adding verse 33:

“He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.”Psalm 18:33

Last week I told you that I love this passage because in it, David gives God credit for everything! When we meditate, like David did, on all that God does for us, it’s like wrapping oneself up in a warm, comforting, and secure blanket entirely of God!

Today’s verse focuses on the stability we find in God. Sometimes when we follow Him, He leads us through frightening terrain. Yet He makes us able to handle the journey. He makes our feet like the feet of a deer–sure and steady and able to walk where no person can go. Then God causes us to stand on the heights–able to see where we came from below, yet ever closer to our Lord. When we trust Him by following His lead, He takes us where we’re meant to go.

  • He arms us with strength.
  • He keeps our way secure.
  • He makes our feet like those of a deer.
  • He causes us to stand on the heights.

Father, it’s looking like You do all the work! Thank You for Your care, Your provision, Your protection, and Your presence. We love You, Lord! Amen.

If you need a refresher course on verse 32, click here to view it at BibleGateway.com. To see the whole passage there, click here.

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Psalm 18:32 on My Mind

NewOMM“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”Psalm 18:32

I’m going to do something a little bit different with On My Mind Mondays over the next few weeks. I came across a passage in my quiet time this morning that I would like to memorize. Five verses–five weeks. Could I memorize it faster? Probably. But this passage touched my heart. I want to spend some time with it.

This week I’ll be focusing on Psalm 18:32, above. If you’d like to look ahead at the whole passage, click here to visit BibleGateway.com where you can see all five verses right now.

What is it that I love about this passage? Throughout its words, David gives God credit for everything! God makes him able. God gives him strength. God prepares his path. God trains him for all he must face. God protects and sustains him. God stoops down to make him great!

And God does all of this for each of us, too! Meditating on these verses is like wrapping oneself up in a warm, comforting, and secure blanket entirely of God!

Interesting. That reminds me of St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer, the title of which comes from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Yet, the essence of the prayer can be seen in Psalm 18 as well. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here are the words to St. Patrick’s prayer:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ on the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Do you feel it?! A warm, comforting, and secure blanket of God. He arms us with strength and keeps our way secure. He is with us always. He is everything!

Father, we thank You for being everything we need, for surrounding us with Your love, for providing necessary strength and security. As we meditate on David’s words and consider St. Patrick’s prayer, please help us to savor Your presence with us always. We love and need You, Lord! Amen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! No pinching today–instead show grace and God’s love in honor of Jesus’ name. I think St. Patrick would have liked that better! Me, too.

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Counting Blessings

“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’” –Psalm 16:2

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings–name them one by one–
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

These words from the sweet, singsong hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” are still true today. When we’re feeling jumbled, tumbled, and tossed about, mixed-up and turned upside-down, remembering our blessings can help to calm our souls and turn us right side-up. This is true because our blessings are gifts from God. Remembering them reminds us that He cares, that He’s still active in our lives, that we can trust Him to provide all we need–and often so much more!

Just as a little child in a crowded mall will take his mother’s hand for security in the midst of many knees, we can count our blessings for assurance that God is still there. If things are so dark that we can’t see any good, we can call on God for help in that area, too. He is our Lord. Apart from Him, we have no good thing. With Him, though, we have everything.

Thank You, Father, for comfort in the midst of strife. I’ll look for the blessings and know they come from You. Amen.

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When You Struggle to Find the Right Words

I don’t know how it is for you, but of all the elements of prayer, I struggle most with worship and praise. It’s not that I don’t feel worship and praise or believe that God deserves all worship and praise. All glory and honor and praise are His! I just sometimes struggle to find the words.

DSC01019eThat seems like kind of a strange comment for a writer to make.

Yet our almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God Who created the whole universe, Who exists in a realm we can only imagine for now, seems so far beyond any words I might be able to arrange as a loving offering to Him.

Thankfully, He doesn’t expect me to live up to my personal perception of what such an awesome God should expect. He gracefully accepts whatever I have to offer when I choose to offer Him my best.

Yet sometimes I still feel stumped. Prayer requests—I’ve got those. Confession—God’s Spirit lets me know what we need to discuss. Intercession—I’m aware of the needs of my friends and family, world, church, and community. Thanksgiving—This one is often mistaken for praise because it’s just so easy to slide from telling God how amazing He is into thanking Him for all He’s done. Thanksgiving is simply counting blessings and giving God due credit for each.

These elements of prayer (requests, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving) are essentially a matter of presenting the facts of each to God, anticipating His response when we have asked for one. Praise and worship, however, requires contemplation, creativity, even a touch of poetry. Praise and worship is a gift! God deserves to hear us express our deep love.

I wonder if David or Solomon or Asaph or any of the other psalmists ever struggled with this. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read some of their first psalm attempts? I wonder if they tried and tossed out some lines from first drafts, playing with the words until they sounded just right. I suspect they probably did!

We may not be able to read those first drafts, but God has given us a collection of their completed projects in the book of Psalms. When we struggle for words of our own, we can read these, pray along with them, and let them prompt words from us. Here’s an example, using the first four verses of Psalm 8 (The words in brackets are mine.):

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
[People all over the world can see your glory, Lord, just by looking up into the sky!]

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
[Your name alone is so powerful that even the most vulnerable find strength and courage when they praise You.]

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
[I can’t even begin to imagine how big You are, Lord! You’ve held planets in Your hands.]

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
[And yet You do care! You see each person You’ve created. You even know us intimately.]

DSC01029eWhen we pray this way, we’re agreeing with the psalmist’s words about God, offering extra praises as we think of them. We clarify the psalmist’s thoughts with our own words, cementing the understanding of our amazing God in our minds.

Since psalms are actually hymns or songs, we can also turn to the words in our hymnals for praise and worship words to agree with and expound upon, using the same technique:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” 
Blessed Assurance
[Jesus, Your Presence in my life gives me a taste of Heaven. I’m looking forward to living there with You someday!]

If you don’t own a hymnal of your own, you can Google the words to your favorite hymns and pray from your computer. Better yet, ask your pastor if there happen to be any retired hymnals hanging around in forgotten places at your church. As a pastor’s wife I know first-hand that most churches have some hiding somewhere where they aren’t doing anybody any good. Now that many churches have switched from traditional hymnals to overhead projectors there are even more! Your pastor may let you borrow one or have one to keep. (If your pastor lets you keep it, put a little extra in Sunday’s offering plate.)

[Dear churches that have no-longer-in-use hymnals lying around collecting dust in storage closets, please consider clearing out the clutter by giving them away to members of your congregation for personal worship and praise.]

I have one last praise and worship idea to share with you. This also comes from the Psalms. David wrote many of his psalms while sitting outside watching sheep. We may not have any sheep to watch, but perhaps we have children or pets we take outside from time to time. Or maybe we just like walking or running or sitting in the park and watching or flower hunting. If so, noticing the created world around us will fill our minds with words of worship and praise. If bowing your head and closing your eyes leaves you sitting in the dark with nothing to say, open your eyes and make note of all the wondrous sights around you that reveal the greatness of our amazing God.

Next thing you know, you’ll be writing psalms of your own. And God will be delighted to receive your worship and praise.

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Angel Tag

Parachute Prayer“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” –Psalm 91:11-12

Several years ago, I was lying on the couch reading a great book when my middle son came running through the room at nearly light speed. Our small dog was close on his heels, obviously playing “It” in a serious game of tag. Before Windsor could latch on to Alex’s pant leg, however, Alex hopped up on a wooden chair. I watched in horror as the chair tilted from its usual 90-degree angle to less than 45. I’m pretty sure there’s a law of physics that says a chair pushed to that angle by a fast-moving boy will fall to the floor, carrying the boy with it. To make things worse, the corner of our entertainment center was in the direct path of the boy’s forehead, our TV in line with his shoulder. Catastrophe was inevitable; we were headed to the ER.

The accident never happened, though. I was shocked! As I watched, the chair. just. stopped. moving.

Alex froze in place, looking like a surfer holding himself upright at the top of the perfect wave; then he slowly leaned backward to right the chair. As its legs touched the floor, a big, excited grin spread across my son’s face as he looked at me, his eyes wide with delight.

“Wasn’t that cool?!” he said.

I honestly didn’t know whether to clap or cry. I couldn’t stop a smile of incredulity from spreading across my face, but I did have the presence of mind to show Alex what could have happened, what should have happened, and why he’d better never come that close to making that happen again. When the Bible tells about the work of God’s angels, I know it’s telling the truth. I haven’t actually seen them, but I’ve seen the results of their actions. I’m thankful God sometimes chooses to send them to protect and care.

Today’s Parachute Prayer: When you see small children playing in your neighborhood or grown-ups doing dangerous jobs such as trimming trees or completing construction projects up high, ask God to command his angels to watch over them, to keep them safe from harm.

Father, thank You for the unseen angels who follow Your orders on our behalf. In a world full of danger, their presence is a comfort to us from You. Amen.

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What We Can Control

Ice“I [Jesus] tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” –John 21:18

Sometimes life takes us where we don’t want to go. We don’t always have the choices we would like. Sometimes we just have to muck our way through the mud or creep along the cliffs.

When this happens, though, we do get to choose how we will react. No one can take that option away from us. Circumstances may be beyond our control, but our responses to them never are.

This reminds me of Paul and Silas. In Acts 16:16-34, they were wrongfully beaten and imprisoned. They had no say in what happened to them, but they did get to choose their reaction. Were they bitter and angry, loudly declaring, “This is not fair!”? No. Wounded and chained, they chose to sing and pray. And when a miraculous earthquake set them free, they chose to stay. As a result, the jailer and his family (and probably some of their fellow prisoners) were saved.

Lord, when life takes us where we don’t want to go, help us to respond in a way that honors You. Please use the circumstances of our lives to bring glory to Your name, to draw more of Your children home to You. For this we thank You, Lord! Amen.

This post is linked to Essential Fridays, Faith Filled Friday and Spiritual Sundays.

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John 21:25 on My Mind

NewOMM“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” –John 21:25

We sang a hymn in church yesterday morning called The Love of God. The imagery in this hymn is incredible! I especially appreciate the third verse:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,

And ev’ry man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

Can you picture it?

We can see the idea in action today—not with parchment or ink, but right here on-line. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve found so many other Christian blogs written by people who just love to proclaim the works of God. Add Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to the mix, and you’ll find a steady stream of praises 24/7. This is true!

I’m not recommending that you spend all your time on-line. Quite the contrary, in fact. I just think it’s amazing that so many people are taking the time during the day to drop everything for just a moment, post a good word about our great God, then go back to their routine, so that, all together, the praises just keep flowing.

John wrote what he could, his messages contained in five of the Bible’s books. In today’s verse, he implies that he couldn’t write everything he wanted to—wouldn’t have been able to if he tried. Yet he wrote what he felt was most essential in order to introduce us to the Jesus he knew—his Savior, his friend—so Jesus could be ours, too.

Since then, evidently, God continues to compel His people to tell others all about all the things He has done, things He continues to do—because He loves us so and longs to draw all who will come into His eternal kingdom.

This week, I invite you to memorize John 21:25 with me. As you do, watch for opportunities to proclaim the good things God is doing in your life. Let’s not only attempt to drain the ocean and cover the sky, fill books and take over cyberspace, but also to fill the hearts and minds of the people God brings into our lives—Then they can joyfully help us continue the work on this on-going task for the glory of God’s name.

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Psalm 73:26 on My Mind

NewOMM“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” –Psalm 73:26

I’m suffering with a sinus infection today, so this verse seems especially appropriate. I tried to run it off because I read, a few years ago, that it’s possible to run off a cold. That really does work, but I didn’t get very far today. I know: sinus infections aren’t colds. But it was worth a try. Perhaps I’ll feel the results a little later on. For now, I’m drinking hot tea—and lots of it! I will overcome this thing.

In the meantime, it’s comforting to know that though my body may let me down, God never will. He provides all the strength and resources I need to accomplish whatever He calls me to do. (And maybe a sinus infection is telling me He’s calling me to rest.)

As always, I invite you to meditate on and memorize this verse with me this week. When we put God’s Word on our minds, we know it will be there when we need it. God’s strength never fails; neither does His Word.

Father, thank You for being the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I’ll rely on You at all times, whether I’m feeling weak or strong. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Thanksgiving Prayer Thoughts

“Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” –1 Chronicles 29:13

If ever we could think of nothing else to thank God for, we could thank Him for His Presence. He is with us always—wherever we are, whatever our circumstances.

That said, let’s be sure to thank God for His Presence today!

To do so, watch for an opportunity to slip away from the chaos and spend some time thanking God for Who He is. Make a list of every attribute and biblical name for Him you can think of. Reflect on what each means to you personally.

Next, thank Him for what He’s done. Think back over your life journey, and look for God’s fingerprints all over it. Thank Him for His work in and through your life.

Thank Him also for what He will do. This is an act of faith—anticipating His work in this world, in your life, and in the lives of your loved ones. We don’t know what this will look like when God’s finished, but we know we’ll be amazed when the work is done! Thank Him for this hope.

Finally, if the weather allows, take a walk outside. Thank God for everything you see that reminds you He is there.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” –Psalm 19:1

Thank God for revealing Himself to You through His creation and for drawing your attention to it this day, that you won’t take it for granted, but will hear the rocks cry out that God is here, that God is great beyond comprehension, that God is in control of everything.

“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” –Psalm 11:4b

In her book, The God of All Comfort, Hannah Whitall Smith says, “It is a fact that we see what we look at, and cannot see what we look away from; and we cannot look unto Jesus while we are looking at ourselves.”

It’s good to thank God for our blessings. Let’s continue to do that, especially today. But let’s start by thanking God for being God. Let’s take our eyes off of that which cannot last and thank God for the Presence we’ll enjoy through eternity!

Happy Thanksgiving! Bless God today!

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No More Taxes!

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“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” -Psalm 95:2, NIV

The popcorn tax was first to be recognized as such. Then pizza. Bananas. Apples. Anything I use a spatula to cook.

That last one was put into effect when I accidentally flipped some stir fry out of the pan and onto the floor where the DRS discovered it and decided he wanted more . . . and more . . . and more.

That formidable DRS: Dog Revenue Service. Whenever we eat, he plants himself down in front of us and stares, patiently demanding his portion. Sometimes those eyes say, “Aren’t I so adorable you feel compelled to share with me?” or “Don’t you feel guilty enjoying that while I sit here all hungry-like and watch?” More often, they say, “I’m entitled to my portion of your food. Hand it over now.”

I blame my grandmother. Windsor was content to eat dog food until she came to visit us in the Netherlands during his puppyhood. We told her he could only have dog food. Vet’s orders, we said. She quietly slipped him some mashed potatoes under the table anyway. We caught her in the act, but irreparable damage was already done. Ever since, our doggie has demanded his due.

“But he likes it,” she said. I’m still rolling my eyes.

Now Windsor has discovered green beans and broccoli. It’s time for this taxation without representation to stop! Windsor is the dog. He lives in our house by invitation, not obligation. We choose to feed him and care for him because we want to. Windsor needs a change of attitude: Thanksgiving for all we choose to share in place of stubborn demands for what he wants.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving (and now seems to be usurping that holiday). Our ancestors set one day of the year aside for thanking God for all He’s given. Satan would rather our hearts be full of greed. So now we spend Thanksgiving Day planning how we’ll get more stuff.

Maybe that last paragraph was a little harsh. I know we’re not all like that. It’s more of a societal generalization. But I long to see this trend turn around. If everything we have is a gift from God, we should celebrate Thanksgiving every single day! (–without over-stuffing our guts.)

God doesn’t owe us anything.

We’re not entitled to a portion of what’s His.

He graciously provides all we need and more just because He wants to. He simply adores us.

Stop.

Let that last sentence sink in: He simply adores us.

We don’t need anything more.

Father, please forgive me when I take my eyes off You and turn my focus to wants. You are all I need. Help me to trust that the gifts You offer are more than enough for me. Help me to thankfully enjoy what You bring into my life and not to fret over what’s not there. I may ask for things, but I’ll try not to sit and stare, insisting You meet my demands. You are God, the Creator, and You chose to make me! Thank You, loving Father. Amen.