Posted in On My Mind Meditations

Living in Awe; Living Praise

“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” -from the hymn, Blessed Assurance, by Fanny Crosby

I’ve mentioned before that of all kinds of prayer, praise most often perplexes me. When I determine to dedicate a part of my prayer time to praise, it often feels more contrived than sincere, though my heart is sincerely full of praise, awe, and wonder at the incomprehensible greatness of our God. I feel I praise Him best by praying the songs of David as I read my Bible or by singing worship songs at church or along with the radio in my car. Those are good things to do, but I want to learn to give God more. It’s kind of like the difference between buying a greeting card with just the right words or writing the sentiment yourself. The words on the card may perfectly express what’s in my heart, but the message would be more meaningful if I could give my own words.

So often, though, I feel my attempts fall short of what’s in my heart. When I pray, “Lord, You know all things,” I’m reciting a fact, not offering praise. How does one find words worthy of a praise offering to God? How does one dig so deep?

I’ve been thinking on this a lot this week, and I have a few ideas:

1. Praise begins with noticing. We need to ask God to make us aware of His work in our world, all around us everywhere. As we learn to see what He is doing, His work will inspire us to live in awe of Him. Talking to Him about the things we notice He is doing, things only He can do, is offering praise.

Notice the hair on the plant in the picture above, for example. God’s attention to detail is amazing! And those little hairs that we rarely notice have a job to do, helping to keep the plant healthy. Our God is incredibly detail-oriented, providing for the needs of everything He creates. Noticing this leads us to praise.

2. Praise is born of passion and personal experience. The worship songs we sing and the Psalms that resonate most deeply are the ones we can relate to personally; we recognize the truth of the words because we’ve experienced their truth for ourselves. Therefore, we can draw on our past experiences and current circumstances, proclaiming God’s work in them, in order to offer our own praise.

For example, instead of praying, “Lord, You know all things,” I can pray about something specific I know He knows: “Lord, You know how I feel about this situation. Someone is treating me unfairly, yet You know her heart and her motivations as well as mine. You love both of us and want what’s best for us. You are able to bring resolution to this situation. Help us both to see what we need to about the other, so we can understand each other and get along.” This prayer is a request, but it’s a request full of sincere praise, recognizing God’s work in our lives and offering trust, one of the greatest forms of praise.

Another example: “Lord, I am feeling pressed for time – so many demands on my life! But You are the very Creator of time. When Joshua needed more time to win a battle, You made the sun stand still for him! Because I know You are able to do that, I know You have given me all the time I need as well. I will trust You to guide me in using this resource wisely because I know You love me and want me to accomplish Your good purpose for my life, also a gift from You. All of this world’s resources – even time – are Yours. You give Your children everything they need.”

To praise God sincerely, we don’t have to sit down for this purpose and struggle to find words to say. Instead we live our praise, noticing God at work as we go about our day, giving Him credit and naming His attributes in action. As Fanny Crosby proclaimed, our stories give Him praise; they praise Him throughout every day.

Father, please help us to live aware of Your Presence and work in our lives. We want to notice, so we can proclaim praise! You are worthy and we love You. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Posted in Wildflower Thoughts

Our Most Inspirational Heritage

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” -1 Timothy 1:3-4

Oh, no! I hear the old lady singing – again. Now the spunky island princess. Softly. Building . . . building. Brace yourself – here it comes! Four adolescents and their beloved hero, all at the top of their lungs: “I AM . . .”

Can you name that princess, star of the latest cartoon musical slowly driving parents out of their minds? When our boys were little, I could almost quote Pocahontas line for line. Now Moana is getting all the air time.

Every few years, a new princess. I’m okay with that. I love the movies almost as much as my children do. I’d just prefer to see them only once or twice instead of over and over . . . and over . . . again.

I’ll come back to this.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I knew why genealogies were so significant in Bible times. She was reading through Chronicles. Talk about endless genealogies! I told my friend that if I remembered correctly, it was more cultural than theological. The people of that day found their identity in their ancestry . . . not unlike our island princess. Moana struggled to understand her purpose until she learned that her ancestors had been voyagers. Suddenly all became clear; she knew what she was called to do and found the strength to do it in knowing who her people had been. People in Bible times were the same – and so are some people today.

But what if your people didn’t leave you an inspirational legacy? What if, instead of being the son of King David, you learn you are a child of Saul? Because of his poor choices, he was rejected as king by God. Or even more confusing, what if both David and Manasseh, Judah’s most notorious king, are in your family line? Are you bound to go one way . . . or the other, enslaved to your ancestry? Truthfully, we’ll all find both heroes and villains when we climb our family trees. I think we tend to think we have to follow in the footsteps of those closest in lineage to us. This can be troubling for those whose parents or grandparents made hurtful choices for their lives.

Thankfully, though, once we receive Christ as our Savior, we’re adopted into God’s family, grafted forever onto His family tree. We may trace our biological family lines for the fun of it, discovering the unexpected people and places we’re connected to. But we won’t find our identity in these. Our identity is in Christ, Who gives our lives a meaning and purpose and direction and power and calling greater than that of any spunky island princess. We are not bound to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors. Jesus came to give us the perfect legacy.

You wanna sing with me? Nevermind, I still can’t sing. But I know who I am. I am God’s child. I am a child of the King of Kings.

Lord, may our lives reflect this heritage. Amen.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” -Romans 8:15-16

Posted in Wildflower Thoughts

Okay, Stones – Your Turn!

Dear Blog World,

I’ve missed you! I hope you’ve missed me, too. I also hope you’ll forgive my extended absence and welcome me back. I really do have a lot to say. In fact, I’ve been saying it in my journals all along, processing . . . learning . . . praying . . . absorbing. Now I’m ready to write out loud again.

Where have I been?

In April, we added three new children to our family. I still feel kind of like I’m not quite telling the truth when I say that I have seven children, but I do. God has grafted a total of four beautiful girls – biological sisters – into our family tree in the past year and a half in much the same way He grafts those who receive His Son as their Savior into His. (Someday I’ll have to write more about that.) But in case you didn’t know this, whenever you add a family member, whether by birth, marriage, adoption, or alien invasion, there are adjustments to make for all involved. These adjustments pretty much filled my brain with fuzz.

And then I got sick. One day I was fine. The next I woke up and was not. We’ve only recently gotten a partial diagnosis about what’s going on. The good news is it’s not life-threatening. Now we’re just waiting to see if what it is can be treated or if I’ll have to learn to live with it. I’m already doing the latter, hoping this living-with-it-thing is temporary, but knowing that life must go on. If you think of me, please keep me in your prayers. (Maybe I can even be one of your Parachute Prayers . . . whenever you see a wildflower . . . I’ll let you work that one out.)

One of the limitations of this mystery illness is that I can no longer sing. Okay, so all I really did before was make joyful noises to my King, but now I can’t even do that. When I go to church on Sunday, I stand and listen and pray the words to the songs. If I try to sing, my lungs hurt, my heart flutters, and I have to sit down and assure myself I’m okay. The doctors in the ER don’t want to see me anymore. (That’s okay. I never wanted to see them in the first place. Not that they aren’t perfectly nice people, but . . . well, they’re in the ER.)

A few weeks ago, instead of listening and praying, I was whining to God about the situation. (Technically, that’s praying, but it’s not very worshipful.) The following verse came to mind: “‘I tell you,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'” -Luke 19:40. I almost laughed out loud, thinking, “Okay, stones. It’s your turn!” I’ve had that thought in my head each worship service since.

Our God is so amazing, He just has to be praised. If the Pharisees try to shush His people, He can make the stones cry out instead. If one of His children has a physical limitation that keeps her from adding her voice to the mix, He can call in a few rocks to fill in for her too. So far He hasn’t chosen to do this.

But He could. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Lord, how I thank You that one way or another, Your Name will be praised. And one way or another, I will find a way to praise You even if I cannot sing! You have worked miracles on my behalf and for the benefit of my family this year. I’ve been amazed to see what You can do when You decide something must be done. Nothing and no one can stand in Your way. I’ve seen the truth of this – and I love You for it! No one else deserves my trust, my life, my heart like You do. I will praise You however I can. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Posted in Random Reflections

The Conversation Begins: Worship

Psalm 34-3Worship. Praise. Adoration. Acknowledging the greatness of God and declaring our love for Him. This is what He created us to do! What’s more, doing so reminds us of our place and helps us to keep everything else in its place. Only God is worthy to be over all—always! Everyone else, everything else, must be of less importance than Him. Worship helps us to remember this.

But as a form of prayer, worship hasn’t always come easy for me. Sitting down with God to tell Him how amazing He is often feels like a contrived activity. I can make a list of words that describe God, believe with all my heart that these words belong to Him, and present the list as a prayer, but somehow, for me, this always seems to lack something. God deserves so much more!

Of course, no word in the human language will ever be enough for God, so perhaps I’m experiencing the limitations of language and becoming frustrated with them. But David didn’t seem to have this problem. His worship psalms have inspired countless numbers of lovers of God.

So have many modern hymns and praise songs. I was standing next to a new acquaintance at an event that included a time of worship recently. She leaned over and whispered, “I just love singing! These songs are prayers to God.” She was so right.

This is probably why when my words feel inadequate, I turn to the Psalms or turn on my favorite worship music. I hear those words, take them in, voice them myself, and add prayers of my own to them as I sing. I have a few books of written prayers that help me in the same way. The original words may not be my own, but when I consider the words carefully, then express the thoughts to God in my own way, sincerely from my heart, I can’t help but worship God. Music and written prayers are helpful tools when we allow them to prompt prayers of our own.

I’m coming to realize, however, that worship can go even deeper than that. This morning, I read Isaiah 64:8, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This analogy is perfect for what I’ve been coming to understand. The clay exists for the potter’s use. It has no say in what the potter does with it. The potter takes it as it is and molds it into something beautiful. Then its beauty reveals the potter’s skill.

When we strive to live every moment of our lives in submission to God, making ourselves totally available for His purposes, then all of life becomes a form of worship. Our lives begin to reveal the majesty and worthiness of God. His work in us shows through our lives, effectively demonstrating His ability, His nature, and His character for the world we encounter to see. Under His authority, everything we do becomes a genuine act of worship.

Living this way isn’t easy; we want to live our way. But our God deserves no less than our belief that His purpose for us is better than anything we can imagine for ourselves. When we truly want to worship, we place our lives in His capable hands.

Father, You deserve all worship, all glory, all adoration and praise. Please help us to surrender our lives to You daily, knowing that the result will be better than anything we ever could think up on our own. You are worthy of our trust. Your decisions are the best. You love us more than we love ourselves. Make us over in Your image for the glory of Your name. Please use us as You will. Amen.

Posted in Random Reflections

We Need Him; O We Need Him

I woke up with a song in my head today. It’s one I haven’t heard in years, so I have no idea where it came from just out of the blue like this. Well, I do have some idea, and I’m thankful. It’s been playing over and over again all day, like a comforting lullaby in the midst of a tumultuous week. God knew I needed this—something I didn’t even know I needed myself. He is so good to provide.

The song? I Need Thee Every Hour. Raise your hand if you know it! If you don’t, click here to listen on YouTube. Here are the words (written by Annie S. Hawks in 1872):

Anytime Anything AnywhereI need Thee ev’ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford.

I need Thee ev’ry hour;
Stay Thou Nearby.
Temptations lose their pow’r
When Thou art nigh.

I need Thee ev’ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.

I need Thee ev’ry hour,
Most Holy One.
O make me Thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son!

I need Thee;
O I need Thee!
Ev’ry hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior;
I come to Thee!

It occurs to me that this song answers the next two prayer questions: When can we pray? and Why do we pray?

When? Anytime. Any hour. Every hour. I hope you’re beginning to detect a theme as this series continues. Who can pray? Anyone. Where can we pray? Anywhere. What can we pray about? (I haven’t answered that one yet, but I know you can predict my answer—anything!) Our amazing God is available 24/7 to hear any of our voices talking to Him about anything, anywhere. He loves us that much!

And, not only is He willing, but He’s able to accomplish His Will. That tumultuous week I mentioned earlier? Yesterday I realized that though I’m willing to do a lot, I am not able. I have limits. So frustrating! I wish I could do all I want to do, but I must pick and choose and learn to prioritize carefully. My resources of strength and time, among others, are finite. God’s resources, however, are not. He wants to be available to talk with us anytime we want to talk with Him, and so He is available to talk with us anytime we want to talk with Him. We pray to an infinitely capable God.

The Conversation BeginsWhy do we pray? Because we need Him. We are utterly dependent on Him for every little thing. This reminds me of hearing my children stop what they were doing when they were little to look around or yell to get a response—even if I was sitting right there, just to reassure themselves that I was still hanging around. They needed me; they wanted to know that I was close. And I made sure I was—or that someone else was in my place when necessary—because I love them so much.

Isn’t it good to know God loves us and He’s good?! Being dependent, we’d be miserable if He weren’t. He is, though, and so we can talk to Him to find reassurance that He is there, when we need to enjoy His peace, when we’re fighting temptation, when we’re enjoying something and want to share the experience with Him, when we’re hurting and need wisdom, comfort, or strength, when we need to remember who we are or Whose we are—or Who He Is, and when we want His blessing on our life.

Huh? It’s beginning to look like the why is the when. Like I told you last week, the answers to these questions tend to get all tangled up. That’s okay, so long as we’re grasping the truth about prayer. Because God loves us, any of us can talk with Him about anything, anytime, anywhere. We can do so with confidence that He will respond in the perfect way at just the right time to bring glory to His name and good to us.

Better yet, as we grow to understand this in ever-deepening ways, our reasons for praying will grow, too. We’ll pray not only because we need Him but also because we love Him, we truly enjoy knowing He’s around, and we want to touch Him the only way we can—through prayer.

Father, thank You for touching me with a song today. Please touch my friends who are reading this as well. Your love and Your provision amaze me on days like today. Help me to pay more attention more often; I believe You do something to amaze me every day! Thank You for being my Father, my friend, my confidant, my counselor, my savior, my Lord, my teacher, my king. Thank You for hearing when I pray. Amen.

Posted in Wildflower Thoughts, Words Aptly Spoken

Unbalanced, Resting, and Free

Words Aptly Spoken“One of the favorite words in the Rule is ‘run.’ St. Benedict tells me to run to Christ. If I stop for a moment and consider what is being asked of me here, and what is involved in the act of running, I think of how when I run I place first one foot and then the other on the ground, that I let go of my balance for a second and then immediately recover it again. It is risky, this matter of running. By daring to lose my balance I keep it.” –Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction

I came across this quote this morning in the daily devotional I’ve been reading this year, A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, and it really made me think—especially when I put on my running shoes and took off for five and a half miles shortly after. I put the quote to the test, confirmed it was true, and made a few discoveries of my own to share with you.

When we run, we launch ourselves into the air with one foot then catch ourselves with the other. We don’t really think about this; we just do it. (No Nike reference intended.) But the launching is risky. It’s like singing a Capella for a moment, hoping that when the accompaniment starts again, we won’t have slipped off key for our audience to hear. If we don’t hold our feet just so while in the air, we’ll fall when gravity pulls us back to earth.

This means walking is safer. When we walk, one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground. (This is part of the definition of walk.) The motion is the same; we’re still pushing up with one foot while supporting ourselves with the other. But we never actually leave the ground.

So we have a choice to make. Walking is safer, but when we run, we enjoy a moment of freedom from the earth—we soar! And it’s in this moment of soaring that we rest!

That’s right. We rest. We rest while we run but never when we walk.

Most fascinating of all: those who’ve learned to run the fastest, rest the most. Have you ever watched an Olympic runner sprint? Their strides are longer than their heights. Those runners get air!

10-29-14 PostMe. My stride needs work—lots of little jumps. I’ve read that if I boldly allow myself to enjoy a longer stride, I’ll find myself running faster with less effort. That change will take courage because it will involve greater risk. My stride won’t lengthen until I trust myself more, until I stop believing that if I stay in the air too long I will fall.

This trust is what running through life with God is all about. God offers us freedom and rest, but we have to be willing to jump, to work on our stride. This will leave us feeling unbalanced at times, but it sets us free. It lets us rest. No worries about the future; it’s in God’s hands. No struggles to be met in our own strength, with only our own resources. Just confidence in the One Who’s leading us where He wants us to go, where, ultimately, He knows, we most want to be. This running is risky, but God won’t let us fall. He’s teaching us to trust Him, so we can run with Him for all eternity.

Father, please help us to run with confidence and strength. Set us free to enjoy life Your way. Enable us to rest in You. Amen.

Related Bible words: Hebrews 12:1, Isaiah 40:31, Proverbs 3:5-6Proverbs 3:26

Posted in Parachute Prayers

Praying for Those Held in Addiction’s Chains

The song Set Me Free by Casting Crowns played on my MP3 player the other day and prompted a Parachute Prayer. If you aren’t familiar with this song, the melody is haunting, making the message even more powerful. It’s the story of a demon-possessed man healed by Jesus (Luke 8:26-39). As you read the first verse and chorus, consider how this man would have felt:

It hasn’t always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains

Parachute PrayerNow I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

We don’t hear a lot about demon possession in our society today, but there is a group of people living in chains, sometimes living on the streets instead of home with their families. When they are in their right mind, they long for the former, brighter days. But then they give in to what has stolen their minds, wrapped their souls in chains, and left them fighting voices in their heads. These are the people who’ve become enslaved to their addictions, who will give up everything of value in their lives for more, just a little more, the more which is never enough.

This week, when we see chains of any kind (holding fences closed, keeping bicycles safe, blocking off driveways, worn as an fashion-statement accessory), let’s ask God to set people free from their addictions. Jesus set the demon-possessed man free and sent him home (verse 39). He can do the same for those held tightly in chains today.

Father, the chains of addiction are powerful, but You are stronger. This we know! Please set people free today. Amen.

Posted in Random Reflections

Lord, Please Steal Our Show

Lyrical Composition“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”Proverbs 19:21

TobyMac’s song, Steal My Show, wasn’t one of my favorites until I listened closely to the lyrics while driving in my car one day. It’s a beautiful prayer of surrender, essentially saying, “Lord, I plan to do this show, but if You have other plans, please feel free to take over. I will step out of Your way.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it and read the lyrics here:

What I really love about the song is that the singer eventually comes to the conclusion that he’s not only willing to let God take over but that he and his audience need God to do just that. The prayer of surrender becomes an invitation and a plea.

This is life! Though few perform on stage in front of large crowds for a living, we all make plans every day. God doesn’t give us a daily agenda to follow, so we do our best to do what we believe He wants us to do.

Even as we do this, however, we live in submission to Him. We make our plans using pencils, so that we can quickly erase. We live in anticipation, ready for God to intervene, redirect, take over, or even make an appearance—wouldn’t that be something! Someday it will be.

We make our plans, but the Lord’s purpose prevails. I find that incredibly comforting!

Lord, I’m making plans, but I realize my life is Your show. Do whatever You will to assure Your purpose prevails. I love You—and I want others to come to love You, too! Please do whatever You please to build Your kingdom and glorify Your name. Amen.

Posted in On My Mind Meditations

Lamentations 3:22-23 on My Mind

NewOMM“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

I got to go on my first flower hunt of the season yesterday afternoon. My husband and I went walking on our community’s workout trail. This trail stretches ten miles across the city, allowing people to walk, run, ride bikes, skateboard, and roller blade. Every city needs a trail like this! It’s one of our favorite places here so far.

Mike and I did not walk ten miles yesterday, but we enjoyed making use of part of the trail not far from our house. We hadn’t gone far when I saw the first group of flowers I wanted to photograph. Crossing the trail carefully to be certain I wouldn’t get hit by a bike, I slipped under the guard rail, knelt down, and started taking pictures. I thought Mike was simply waiting nearby. When I got up, however, he was laughing. In fact, it took him a few moments to compose himself enough to tell me why.

DSC01173eIt seems while I totally engrossed in taking the perfect picture, a lady on roller blades being pulled by a rather large dog on a leash started to pass by. But the dog found me interesting and turned to investigate, pulling the lady behind him straight toward the fence. Mike had to get between me and the dog and wave the animal back onto the trail in order to save the very grateful lady from a collision with the fence and me from being pushed down the hill.

Of course, I just have to take my husband’s word for it that all this craziness actually took place. All I saw were my flowers, then a dog in the distance, pulling a lady on roller blades on up the trail. But Mike was laughing, so I’m sure the story is true. My husband was faithful. He compassionately kept the helpless lady from injury and me from being consumed.

I am so thankful!

I’m also thankful that our faithful God loves each of us even more than Mike loves me. He may, for reasons we may not yet be able to understand, allow life to gnaw on us a bit or maybe even bite straight into our hearts. This may really confuse us, but, even so, we can know that God will never let us be consumed. He always sees what’s happening and handles it with compassion and mercy–even, in fact, especially when we do not understand. He’s waiting each morning to greet us with the wisdom and strength we’ll need for the upcoming day. He loves us and He’s faithful. No matter what comes, we can count on Him each day.

As always, I invite you to meditate on these verses with me today. Try to memorize them this week. As I’ve been considering them today, I find the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, playing in my head, and I realize it uses phrases from this passage. If you’re familiar with the song, use it for further reflection on Lamentations 3:22-23. If it’s new to you, click here to read the verses and hear the melody.

Father, thank You for Your love, Your protection, Your compassion, and Your faithful presence always. We need You every morning and all through each day. As we cling to Your faithfulness, please make us more like You. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

Posted in Random Reflections

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.