Friday, August 1, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 26

Today I want to praise God for my marriage. Marriage is hard work, it's not a cake walk. All the TV and movie moments of "happily ever after" are fairy tales. And I think they are detrimental to marriages, because nobody really lives like that.

The divorce rate is so high, and I think at least in part, it is because of unrealistic expectations about what marriage is. It isn't the end prize, it is a process you enter into. It's a contract that you make with another person, choosing to partner with them in life, in raising (or not raising) a family together, building a home and a life together. In the case of Christian marriages (whether they start as such, or as in our case end up as such) they are more than contracts they are covenants, made with not only your chosen one, but also with God. I wish more people understood fully what it is to make such a covenant, and then perhaps instead of walking away when marriage gets hard or does not meet one's expectations, they would dig in and put forth the work and effort required to help the marriage succeed.

When two people are married they should be determined that nothing and no one will come between them, and they should be willing to do whatever it takes to strengthen their marriage. They should also be on the look out for those things that are a threat to it and building hedges of protection against those things.

I do not have a perfect marriage, there are things Neal does that drive me nuts or frustrate me, and I say confidently he would say the same thing about me. BUT I love him and am determined to be with him for the rest of our lives. It's WORTH the effort. The Lord once spoke to my heart that I have a "good marriage with great potential." Good marriages are hard to come by nowadays, so I am grateful for that, but even more I praise God that with His help our marriage has the potential to just get stronger and better. I know it is only because of the Lord I can say that, because He is the glue that holds us together. We made a promise not just to each other but to Him, if not on our wedding day (because we were not Christians then) on the days we chose to follow Christ. We promised to live our lives and our marriage His way.

Having said all that I am blessed that I am absolutely CRAZY about my wonderful husband. On top of being a good husband and a great dad, he is my very best friend. I don't just love him with that sweet sappy romantic love (I do, but not just that) I also LIKE him. He is a fun guy to be around with, I treasure those times we have to just be a couple. It is good to be married to someone I like and respect as a person. Not everyone has that luxury.

This weekend we are headed down to Long Beach for my 20 year high school reunion. Neal and I have been together for 19 of those 20 years since I graduated. (Married for 17 of them.) I'm going to the reunion, but the most exciting part for me is to steal away a couple of days to be with the man I love. He is a gift to me from God Himself, and I praise Him for giving me the most wonderful partner I could have asked for. Even if I may have to, at some point, come back and read this blog to remind myself how I really feel about him on one of those frustrating days. =)

I don't know if anyone ever really stops by to even read this blog, or comes for more than an occasional passing through, but if you have been Day 27 will be delayed because I won't be near a computer at all tomorrow, I'll be enjoying my life with the man I love.

(Jesus said) "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:2-4

Thursday, July 31, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 25

If I could have anything,
It would be to have the words to bring
Honor, glory and praise,
Words that would tell of Your wonderful ways.

I would pray for the heart to hear,
The whisper of Your voice, ever so clear.
And for the mind that could fully comprehend,
The matter of truth that You are my Friend.

Oh that my worship would completely show,
My thankful heart for all You bestow.
To know Your love to the depth of my soul,
To embrace the grace that makes me whole.

How I hope to find the way
To live a life of worship every day.
In all I do to glorify You my King,
Making my life a holy offering.

- Diana DePriest

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 24

In my Bible study "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul" is the following question.

It says, "Ponder these words of A.P.Gibbs: "In prayer we are occupied with our needs, in thanksgiving we are occupied with our blessings, but in worship we are totally occupied with God Himself." Then it asks what this quote says to you.

I think this statement is extremely profound, and for me at least, it really brought about a new perspective on worship. What I get from this is that praying is about my needs, thanksgiving about what God has provided or done but worship is about Who God is.

Worship is about being in love with God, and expressing all the love, joy and passion that that encompasses. Worship is the expression of the greatest love affair of all time.

Now it is interesting because there are so many different levels and definers of the love God has for us, He loves us as a Father, and expresses the passion of a jealous lover, His love is not easily defined, but it is awesome and all encompassing.

Here are some thoughts I have been pondering over the last couple days. As a mother of 3 children, I love all of my children equally, but I love them each differently. My relationship with each one of them is different. We enjoy time together in different ways, connect on different levels. I play the same role in each of their lives, I am mother to all, but that is expressed differently with each one. Even in my discipline, I parent them separately and uniquely. And each one of them responds to my love and expresses there love back to me in their own way. Victoria loves to draw me pictures, Jake is a hugger, and my Ethan will simply lean over in my ear and tell me he loves me.

Sometimes I get caught up in this struggle that I don't have the ease of "worship" for the Lord as I see others around me have. I have expressed my struggles to focus in corporate singing and such in previous posts. But that does not mean I am incapable of worshipping God in my own way. Even these posts are a form of worship to Him, they are expressions of my love for Him. My writing poetry or lyrics, those are forms of worship too. Of course there are ways the Lord has instructed us to worship Him, such as with singing and music, but I am by no means limited to that, I can grow in that while I worship God in the gifts and manners of expression He has given me.

We each have our own way of expressing worship. A musician may write a song, a carpenter may build a table, an artist may paint a portrait, a runner may run a race, but when they are done out of hearts expressing love to God, they are acts of worship.

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of saints.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds.
Psalm 149:3-5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 23

Sigh. Parenting is hard. Parenting a teenager is especially hard. There is this process from birth of allowing your children to grow into who they are, you have to lead and direct. At some point you have to begin to allow them to make choices for themselves. When they're little it starts out easily, "red shirt or blue?" "Fruity Pebbles or a Pop Tart?" Little by little you give them more times of opportunity to make choices for themselves. Sometimes you have to reign them in, "No you cannot wear your pink pajamas to church." "No you cannot have ice cream for dinner." But when they are little the power struggles are smaller, the consequences minor and you sort of work out the challenges. You learn a lot about your children in those days, the greatest science experiment is going on, and you discover your children's strengths, and their weaknesses.

These teen years, they are harder. You are in the earliest days of the eventual separation, you begin to see the glimpses of the days when your participation in their choices is strictly advisory, and they have absolute choice in whether they heed or ignore those opinions. Sometimes you look ahead and see there will be bumps they will have to weather. Other times you can just see magnified in your child the ways they are different from you. It may be as mild as differences in personal preference ("No, I would NEVER wear the pink plaid shorts with that green checkered blouse.") Or you may find it to be as frightening as values you hold that have somehow not passed on into your child's core. ("I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.")

There is this safety net in this time frame of life that you can pull out if you have to. It's four simple words, "Because I said so." You can play that card and lay down the law to force your will, but not arbitrarily, you have to choose your battles. You HAVE to choose your battles. These teen years are the days where the groundwork is being laid for the adult relationship you'll have with your child. Of course all of the years leading up to this point play a part too, but there is something more significant about these years, the TEEN years.

Of course I believe firmly in non-negotiables, the "my house, my rules" arena of parenting. For example, in our home church is a non-negotiable. Our priorities are God and family, and we will be at church on Sundays and Wednesdays with very few exceptions. In our home there are other rules, like no lying or deception (which is a very broad category in our home) and no drinking alcohol, not before or after it's "legal." Every family has their own choices to make for these non-negotiables, these are just a few of ours.

Alas, it is those "negotiables" that try your heart in these transition years. You make your case, you explain your stand, but ultimately you have to let them make their own decisions, and you have to let them own them, and live with the consequences. And what an interesting quandary you find yourself in in those experiences. You want your children not to suffer, but you also want them to learn lessons. Do you hope to be right or do you hope to be wrong? It is exhausting.

I'm exhausted, and my teen is only 14! And you wonder, are you looking into personality flaws that will be a lifetime struggle? Or will he learn lessons from the consequences of his choices? Or are you and your child just different? Only time will tell, and to some degree you can only sit back and watch and wait.

Prayer, this is only your only certain means of participation. You pray for wisdom, for both you and your child. You pray for grace to protect Him and steady, and for God's discipline to teach him, and perhaps you. And when it all comes down to it, you have to put your trust once again in God's sovereignty over your child's life, just as you have trusted it for your own. And it is harder to trust it for your child then for yourself, because , well, you just want your kids to be OK, and to have that perfect testimony, of always following the Lord, always making good choices and getting through life unscathed. Unfortunately that testimony doesn't exist. So all you can do is lay your child at the Father's feet and trust Him, knowing He loves that little one, whether he/she is 3, 13 or 30, and remember God loves that child far more than you can ever even comprehend. And He has a good plan and purpose for that child, that includes all their choices, both good and bad. You pray for that soft malleable heart and that sensitive spirit, and as time continues, little by little more and more you let go, sit further back, and find the day when that child is an adult and they will make all their own choices, live their own lives, own their decisions and reap what they sow. Your best hope will be to have earned the right to be a trusted advisor, perhaps someday even a friend.

I praise God for the assurance that I can trust Him. He will take care of my kids. And I praise God that I am blessed that so far it seems my teen son at least has his priorities of God and family in order; and trust that God is working to grow him into a man who will live a life that honors Him, even if I don't always agree with every decision he makes along the way. And I will watch from the sidelines, maybe someday even with pride in the man he has become.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:8-14

Monday, July 28, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 22

I have been pondering something over the last few days. It's something I think about on a lot of occasions, actually.

God gave us free will. In part at least He gave us free will so we could choose Him, and choose to love Him for ourselves. He didn't want to create mindless creatures, He wanted real relationships and real love. So, He gave us free will.

Free will is something we want, it's something people fight for. Many think it's a right to be treasured. But there is a dark side to this gift that God gave us, and that's the power it gives others over our lives. Because just like we have free will so do others, and many use it in a way that hurts or hinders us.

I can have all good plans and purposes, in my life, in my ministry, in my relationships, I can be completely on track with these things, but I do not have the power to assure they stay on the right course. Other people have the power to circumvent my plans or intentions, with a refusal to support or participate, by lording power of position, there are so man ways that the free will of others can hurt, harm or hinder me. (And you too by the way.)

That can be a hard pill to swallow, because no matter how much you choose to do the right thing, it does not guarantee you the outcome you hoped or planned for.

So, as I said, I have really been chewing on this the last few days, watching poor scenarios play out in my life but more around me in the lives of people I care about. I've been watching people get hurt by others' free wills and I have been asking myself, what do you say in those situations? How do you minister to someone in that circumstance?

I was spending time with the Lord last night considering these things and this is the word that came to me, "Sovereign."

My God is sovereign. And yes, people will do us harm, whether it is without intention or done with malice, we will be hurt when others exercise their freedoms. In fact they may even thwart our plans for our lives. They may destroy dreams, but God's plan will stand. God's purpose for us will remain.

If we draw close to Him, hide in the shadow of His wings, then we have the hope that we may find a new dream there, God's dream for us, His plan. And we know His plans are for our good.

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'" Jeremiah 29:11-13

There is the key, we must take our hurts, our broken dreams, and we must seek Him out, we must call upon Him and allow Him into our pain, sadness and disappointment. And when we do, we have His promise that He will listen to us and be found by us, and then He will lead us into His plans for His life. If we trust Him, we may suffer the journey, but never will we regret the destination.

We have no power over the free will of others, we cannot manipulate, bully or beg another into undoing a harm done to us. What we can do is continue on that right path, seek to trust and honor the Lord and trust His sovereignty in our lives. We can live our lives in such a way as to honor Him, and place our hope and faith in Him. I praise God for that word, and all the truth it holds, my God is the sovereign God.

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. 1 Timothy 6:11-16

Sunday, July 27, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 21

Today was a hard day for me. I was looking forward to going to church this morning and participating in corporate worship. It's interesting to me that as I have been going through this "30 Days of Praise" and as I have begun this book/ bible study on worship that several of my regular opportunities to participate in corporate worship have been circumvented by circumstance.

Today I was hopeful about being at church and worshipping with my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if not a single one knew I was hoping for something special to happen. Unfortunately it was not what I had hoped for.

I believe God has gifted some in their ability to worship Him. I don't know if it is a spiritual gift, or just part of the personality He has given certain people, or even just the way their mind works, but I think that entering into His presence is less challenging for others than I find it to to be for myself.

I'm sure everyone struggles at times, but I think there are some people who are generally better at it over all. I think I am married to one of these people. I see my husband, paritcularly when he is playing worship on a Sunday or Wedneasday with the team, and I watch him get lost in God's presence. He's able to lay aside his burdens and just go to the throne room. I on the other hand find myself to be very distractable. Try as I might, I find a grocery list, or a note that needs to be written interrupting my focus on the King of kings.

Sometimes the interruptions are not so benign, like today. Sometimes it is people and offenses that riddle my mind and distract me completely from what I am supposed to be doing, what I truly want to be doing. And unfortunaltey sometimes there really is just nothing good that can be done with hurts like these. There are people (in my opinion) that it is pointless to address or confront. So what am I supposed to do with that?

Today I didn't make good choices. New offenses, not just to me, but to people I love brought back up old and ongoing offenses. My mind just wandered further and further down the rabbit trail, tearing off scabs and band-aids of wounds I thought had healed, of wrongs I though I had let go of. Sigh. The heart is desperately wicked. What will it take to cleanse mine?

Today at church my pastor speaking on end times spoke of the longsuffering of God. He continues to tolerate the wickedness and sinfulness of the world, despite the injury to His heart in order to wait for the few more that will come to Him in repentance. Honestly, I don't know how He does it. If I were God I would have wiped us all out a long time ago, probably right there in the garden.

So today I praise God for that longsuffering heart of His. I praise Him for His patience and His grace. And I pray that if I just keep trying to bring my focus back to Him, yet again, that eventually I will be more like Him, and more able to maintain that focus, not giving any other person or circumstance the power to circumvent my ability to sit at His feet and drink in His presence.

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. 1 Timothy 4:6-10

30 Days of Praise - Day 20

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

I praise God for the powerful truth of this scripture.

All of us have struggles and trials. Everyone, both those in the Lord's family and outside of it. But only those who belong to the Lord have this promise. The end result of our trials is HOPE, joyful, wonderful, blessed hope.

And that hope is not just for the outcome of the trial, but for the transformation of the person through it. The road between trial and hope is PERSEVERANCE and CHARACTER. We pray to God and sometimes He changes the trial or the circumstance, but He always does a work in the person.

I know for certain one of the greatest trials we ever went through was the adoption of our son. It was a nightmare 3 1/2 years to arrive at the day when he was as much legally ours as he was in every other way, emotionally, spiritually, and the many ways I cannot define in a word. It was a long hard road filled with pain and anguish. But on that road we learned to believe and trust God like we never had before. We had to daily persevere through challenge and opposition, we had no choice but to press through; and God changed us in the process. We came to be a people who knew Him in a deeper and more tangible way; He built a testimony of our entire family. We became truer to our faith, and our faith became more real to us. As I look back on that season now, I know I became a woman of greater hope. As new trials come, I may still struggle, but my hope is stronger, and I know as He brings us through each new trial, that hope (and the assurance of it - which is faith) becomes stronger still.

I praise God for the miracle of that entire process, one that does not exist outside of His world.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1