Saturday, July 19, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 13

As I typed the title, I was struck by the irony. Day 13 - it certainly feels like the "unluckiest" of days. Too bad I believe in the sovereignty of God and not luck.

Neal is still in the hospital, and there seems very little if any improvement. I am so lonely without him. I know I have 3 children here to keep me company, but I truly love that man more than my own life. I am realizing how incredibly God truly has made us "one flesh" and it hurts to be separated, even if only for a few days.

My daughter has come down with the stomach flu so now I am stranded at home to care for her and leaving Neal alone at the hospital. He's a good sport, but I know he is lonely there. He's such a good sport. I don't begrudge caring for my daughter (or her brothers should they follow suit) but my heart is torn because I want to care for Neal too. And I just miss him.

Today I praise God for the miracle of the Body of Christ. I am blessed by friends and loved ones who put themselves aside and help in times like this. It is another design by the Creator Himself that is wonderful to read about and yet indescribable to experience. I am thankful for the friends and loved ones God has put in my life. Those who will care for your sick children, will drive you to the hospital, will clean up after your sick children, those who go where you can't when you can't. I am thankful for the many who are praying, some I don't even know about, but I know they are praying because though I feel pressed, I am not crushed. Though I feel persecuted, I am not abandoned.

I know God Himself is with me, and for me, but I am so grateful that He also chooses to reveal that and express it through people you can touch, hear, see... oh and text. God bless the timely text message of encouragement and humor.

Tomorrow is a new day, I praise God for that too, because it brings new hope, and promised new mercy. I praise God for His faithfulness and for the faithfulness of His people.

We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NCV

Friday, July 18, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 12

I woke up this morning singing praise songs. I've heard about people doing that before, but it never happened to me. It was a wonderful experience.

My day ended with kissing my husband good night as I left him at the hospital. He has severe complications and an infection from his surgery last week, the surgery he did "for me." And I am feeling really low.

God is still God and just as much on the throne tonight as He was this morning. I listened to worship music on the way home from the hospital. The song is called The Everlasting by Third Day. These are the lyrics to the song.

The Everlasting
Ruler of the universe, higher than the kings of earth
Long before the world began, everything was in Your hands
Your glory will forever stand

For You are the Lord and You are God above
Your love goes on and on

You are the Everlasting Father
You are the Everlasting...
You are the Everlasting Light (oh yeah)
Every knee shall bow (every knee shall bow) before You
You are the Everlasting Life

You rule raging of the sea, the hills proclaim your majesty
All these things created for, the glorifying of the Lord
We praise Your name forever more

For You are the Lord and You are God above
Your love goes on and on

You are the Everlasting Father
You are the Everlasting...
You are the Everlasting Light (oh yeah)
Every knee shall bow (every knee shall bow) before You
Lord of Mercy we adore You (we adore You)
You are the Everlasting Life

My heart cries out
My spirit shouts
I'll praise Your name forever more

He is God of the mountain tops, and He is Lord in the valleys. I am extremely fearful. It's my nature to consider worst case scenarios. I have no peace, but I will seek the Prince of Peace until it comes.

Everything in me wants to go stuff my face with cupcakes, it's my response to stress, but I think I will go crawl in the Father's lap and try to find comfort there. The Everlasting Father.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 11

The Psalms are an excellent place to find a starting point to worship. They are filled with the heart expressions of people focused on the Lord. What is fascinating is that they are people who find themselves in all kinds of circumstances, from joy and elation to absolute darkness and despair.

Today as I worked through my Bible study I did an exercise that I highly recommend. Choose and Psalm and paraphrase it into your own words. As I took the time to do this exercise today it really blessed my heart. It was a reminder of many attributes of the Lord that I tend to lose focus on or even take for granted. It gave me thought to consider so much more about the Lord than my own mind could contain.

I've been considering the attributes of God, and I am beginning to think that a big part of worship is expanding those perceptions. What I am saying is God often reveals Himself to us individually in very specific aspects. For example, coming from my testimony of abortion with all the guilt and shame I held for many years I truly learned the truth of God as my Redeemer. It is a truth of God's attributes that I know that I know to the depth of my soul. For someone else they may be very confident and secure in God the Provider, someone who has been made well from a devastating sickness or disease, no one is more certain about God the Healer.

Is He any less my Provider or Healer because I have not had such a dramatic experience of it? No. He is just as much my Provider as my Redeemer. He is my Peace, my Strength, a Mighty Fortress, my Comforter, Father, Lord, Savior and Friend and so much more. Part of growing in worship, I believe, is growing in both the understanding and acknowledgement of all the attributes of God, and their truth in our personal relationships with Him.

How incredible would it be as I seek to learn and recognize these innumerable facets of our God, that my eyes would be continually opened to not only Who God is, but Who He is to me. A wonderful beginning is to see Who He has been to those who've gone before. The Psalms are an excellent place to start.

I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.
I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.

Psalm 145:1-5

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 10

Today was a rough day. It started out OK with me trying to focus first and foremost on the Lord. But circumstances were out of control and I never do very well with that. Victoria was under the weather and couldn't go to VBS and that changed my plans for the morning. Worse than that is Neal's having complications from his surgery and he stayed home this morning until we could get him into the doctor. The doctor doesn't seem concerned but it doesn't change the fact that Neal isn't feeling well, and I just feel really bad about that.

It's interesting to me that I struggle a lot more in life's circumstances than I do in life's crises or tragedies. I get diverted much more easily when things are just turbulent. We have had major crises and tragedies, like during Ethan's adoption and when Neal's mom passed unexpectedly, and in times like those I find myself very anchored, completely focused and filled with faith and expectation for God's deliverance, whereas a fever and a canceled appointment can throw me for an absolute loop. I don't really have any deep insight on that yet, but it's one of the things that occurred to me today.

I wanted to share one of the questions in my bible study last night because I thought it was very thought provoking.

From Satisfy My Thirsty Soul
Which of the following definitions of worship do you like the best? Why?

* "Worship is the outpouring of a soul at rest in the presence of God."
- A.P. Gibbs

* "Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth."
- John Piper

* "Worship is giving God the best that He has given you."
- Oswald Chambers

* "Worship is the overflow of a grateful heart, under a sense of Divine favor."
- A.P. Gibbs

I think it's a great question, and if anyone out there is actually stopping by to read this, I want you to stop and chew on it for yourself, so I'll share my perspective at a later time.

Well, I'm exhausted, emotionally more than physically, but I am going to share one final thought provoking quote from Satisfy My Thirsty Soul.

Worship is not just a specific act. It is also a lifestyle.
Worship is a specific act of bowing my knees and declaring, "Holy, holy, holy."
Worship is also a specific lifestyle of bowing my life and living, "holy, holy, holy."

Think on that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

30 Day of Praise - Day 9

"To behold is to become." That's a line in the book I've been reading.

It was interesting as I went to do my reading and Bible study that it was talking about what I was considering in last night's post, how I could feel myself being somewhat different since I have been focusing on the Lord. I almost typed "because of the focus" instead, but then suddenly it sounded a lot like I was giving myself some of the credit for the change, and that is definitely NOT the case.

The book also went on to quote another Christian writer's assessment that the presence of God is very simply a place of transformation. You cannot be in the presence of God and not be changed.

When Moses spent time in God's presence on Mt. Sinai, he came down physically changed, so much so that it brought fear into the Israelites when they saw him.

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.

I remember a few years ago I was in a Wednesday night worship service and I looked over at a woman who I knew casually. I could see something on her, something different, and I knew she had been spending time in the presence of the Lord. When I asked her, she had confirmed that she had actually made and been keeping a commitment to spend more time in the Lord's presence. It encouraged her that I could physically see it. It was exciting to see.

I don't know if I'm shining. (yet?) But I do know that I can sense a transforming work going on. It may not be dramatic, but it is real, because it is God's work, not my own.

The only thing I can say that I know has changed for me is this, I cannot as easily avoid spending time in God's presence. Have you ever been thirsty, but not really realized how thirsty until you took a drink? It's like you go for a sip of water and suddenly you find yourself gulping down the whole bottle. That is what I find this worship endeavor to be like. I'm no longer satisfied with a sip; I want to gulp in all that God is.

Monday, July 14, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 8

It really is a miraculous thing, the way that worship affects you.

Today was an interesting day. I am going to confess that one of my greatest struggles is with my mouth. I grew up around a lot of "colorful language" as the world would describe it. And because I was always good with words, there was a time in my life when I could use them as a cruel weapon. I had a friend who used to admire my sharp tongue; I had on occasion put someone in their place on her behalf. Even after I became a Christian she would laud the "gift" as she saw it. It was something I struggled with, because I know the Lord never intended words to be used that way. He intended for words to be a tool to build, not to destroy.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

I have gained a lot of victory over the lashings, but the cursing is something that still will rise up and take hold. It's a great struggle for me, because I know what the bible says about this.

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? James 3:8-10

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34b


And I know myself well enough to see that when I am going on my own way, my own strength, and am not plugged in and abiding, well, the curses come, because my heart is not filled with good things, but rather it is overflowing with self.

So this morning didn't start well, and in my typical frustration, a curse would come. Today, it wasn't there. And I know that it's because I have been spending these days seeking the Lord, focusing on Him, aligning my heart with His.

I have another clear indicator that tells me without question where my heart is at, and that's behind the wheel of my car. It seems whenever I am behind the wheel of my life, it is evident when I'm driving. I'm not talking necessarily about road rage or anything so severe, but it has more to do with my willingness to just go with the flow. When I'm not where I should be, I find myself always trying to rush through be in the front, to hurry ahead, let no car pass me. But when I'm focused on the Lord, suddenly the need to be first subsides. Hmmm... Hopefully that's true in more places than just behind the wheel, even if it's not quite as obvious.

I see other differences too. Today Neal and I took the kids to see Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (which on a side note, I highly recommend, it was a roller coaster ride of good clean fun!) And as it happens, I ended up sitting in front of a kicker. You know what I mean, one of those people who just kicks away at the back of your seat. I checked it out after the first kick. I was more annoyed because we weren't dealing with a child or anything. The second time I looked back again, hoping to gently make a point. No luck. But the third time, I was just able to let it go. Consciously I was able to acknowledge, that for the Lord, I wasn't going to let it get to me. Now for some this may seem like no big accomplishment, but remember, I'm overcoming the girl with the sabre tongue. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and that's pretty cool.

And all of these things I'm sharing, are just fringe benefits to taking my relationship with my God to a deeper level. None of these things are the goals I'm setting. It's not at all a matter of me deciding I want to better control my mouth, or my attitude. All I am doing is seeking the Lord, abiding in Him, and this fruit is growing. It is sweet fruit.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

It's so cool to find God's word proved true in your life.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 7

The Purest Place

Paint me with Your purity
That I’d attract Your majesty
When others boast in fame and gold
The purest place is where I’ll go

The purest place I will draw near
Do what it takes to keep me here
In the center of Your heart
The purest place is where You are

It’s not with masses, not with kings
Not in these songs or offerings
Not in this life or what it brings
The purest place is You my King


If there’s such thing as too beautiful
If there’s such thing as too wonderful
If there’s such thing as too marvelous
Jesus it’s You, Jesus it’s You


It’s You my King, It’s You my King
The purest place, is You my King...

I've been working on my devotional and journal in my "Satisfy My Soul" bible study. The first week has a worship exercise it recommends one try 4 or 5 days out of the first week. It involves setting the stage for a time before the Lord, bowing heart and body in worship to Him. It recommended playing worship music. This is where I reveal a little of my quirkiness.

I have this thing I do with the Lord when I am trying to connect with Him. And I must say overwhelmingly He usually seems to respond to me. I put the music on "shuffle" and let the Lord "pick" the song He wants me to hear. I was using my MP3 player that has over 700 songs on it, and I just hit play. The lyrics above are the song that came on. It's a song I'd never heard before. I put it on the player because I really like one other song by the band who sings it, Watermark.

I really felt like it was the Lord's choice. It really defines what worship is, to be in the center of God's heart, focusing on Him. Then today I had written a fired who I dearly love and respect, I shared with her just a little about my focus and pursuit to grow in worship and in her reply she said this, "When we worship, its more about our spirit tuning in to God's and truth I would think is coming without any deception or anything to hide, basically open before the Lord." I thought it was a wonderful confirmation of what I already felt the Lord speaking to me last night.

I think a lot of what I'm learning is that worship traces back to what John chapter 15 says about abiding. In verse 9, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." And then in verse 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."

There is this incredible miracle in worship, focusing fully on the Lord and acknowledging Him for Who He is... I can't really find the words to describe it, because I suppose the only way to truly understand it is to experience it. It's such a gift.

Today I began to see some of the effects of pursuing a life of worship. I had songs of praise on my lips throughout the day, and not just singing them like they were songs stuck in my head, but I was thinking about what I was singing, and Who I was singing them about. It's funny, because so many times it seemed like the songs were falling short, they weren't fully capturing the expressions of my heart, and then I had to try to make up my own words and put my own thoughts to tune to express to God what I was feeling.

I saw other benefits too, evidence of my "joy" being "full." My temper was much more relaxed today, things that I know I typically react to, I was able to stop and wait, and respond in love. That is the work of God alone because I know from experience that I do not have the power within myself to make that choice of my own volition.

I know I am only on the beginning of this journey, but I see promise about the destination. I still want to turn the sprinklers on really high for the people who keep parking in Neal's parking space in front of my house, but the key is, I haven't done it. Surely, God is at work in me.