Praise Him

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

Last week I shared that my family is going through a tough time. Of the many things I’ve been praying in this season, one I repeat to the Lord is that we would honor Him in this time with our actions and attitudes. But that prayer begged a question – what does that even look like?

One thing to do (and also something I wrote about) is to be brutally honest with God about how I’m feeling. Not to accuse Him or whine, but as an act of surrender of those emotions and desires.

(Try it!)

But yesterday I also learned (or rather, finally understood) another way to honor Him during hardships. I was all set for one of those super honest prayer times while driving home from a meeting at church. I shut off the worship CD for quiet when the Spirit grabbed my heart. Turn it back on I felt Him put in my heart.

Spend time the time praising Me.

So I turned it back on. I listened to the words for a minute, considering deeply the words I had sung often more absentmindedly than thoughtfully.

It’s all Yours, the day and the night, the earth and the sky, God it’s all Yours. … God You reign…

I began to sing, choosing to mean every word. A declaration to the angels and the wind flowing past my window (and any other drivers who can read lips) that despite the quaking of my knees at life circumstances, God, the maker of the universe, was the author of my days as well.

I stopped thinking so much of my own circumstances and troubles. I couldn’t – after even five minutes of thoughtful heartfelt praise I was consumed with Him, in awe of Him. And I realized more than ever that praise is His due. All the time, no matter what.

It was an act of faith, and it bolstered my faith.

And I think it was an answer to my question – how do I honor Him in this hard, heavy season of our lives? Same as always. I praise Him. Because He hasn’t changed! And the amazing wonderful things He has done stand forever worthy of our adoration and proclamation.

And that God who parted the Red Sea on behalf of the people He loved and called? I know He will also part the sea I’m facing.

Amen. And praise the Lord!

Go on – do it…

🙂 👏 🙌

True Contentment

Photo Katie McNaught on Unsplash

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

We’re in a season of loss in my family. Nothing like the tragic losses that Habakkuk was lamenting, but we are grieving and wondering “what now?” and crying out to God. Each day that passes without relief or even relief in sight, the emotional burden is getting heavier.

How long, O Lord?

Contentment has become a hard word. I know I’m supposed to be content,

Yet true godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

But how can you be content when you are lacking things you need? When you have lost something or someone dear to you (or both)? And I have no interest in faking it.

How long O Lord?

I take comfort in David’s psalms of lament. Here was a man anointed by God to be king, yet he was being hunted down by the current king like an animal. Where was God? I wonder if David doubted God’s promise. Circumstances weren’t confirming the call he’d been given.

Yet, no – when you read David’s story you see a man who trusted and waited for the Lord. Who praised His goodness in the face of loss and danger. A man who delighted in God no matter what.

And that is the secret, I’ve learned in these hard days, to contentment.

It’s not about your earthly circumstances. It’s not a cup of coffee in your favorite cafe with your favorite book in hand. This contentment is in knowing that God is good and faithful and wonderful therefore in Him you have enough. In knowing that He promised never to leave you, and He never will.

I woke up this morning with the same heaviness and anger I’ve had for awhile now. But as I began to pray and thank God for what He has provided and for His goodness and presence with me throughout my life, as I worshipped Him and accepted that life won’t always feel good but He will never forsake me, I experienced peace. He is enough. Therefore I can be content no matter the temporary losses of this life.

I am His and He is mine forever, and therefore though I am weak, yet I am strong.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have learned the secret to being content whatever my circumstances: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Are you in a season of loss or uncertainty? Take a few minutes to reflect on God’s promises to you, on how He has met you in the past, and thank Him. Praise Him as an act of faith and trust that He will never leave nor forsake you!

The God Who Sees Hagar, and Me

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

I have a son on the autism spectrum. In the early years of his life, when he was newly diagnosed and I was reeling from the fear and strain of it, it called into question the goodness of God for me.

God if you love me and my son, why at 4, can he barely talk?

Why can’t I go to church because my son gets too scared and overstimulated in Sunday school? Don’t You want me in church?

Why does he attack me?

Where are You in all this?

Help my little man. Help us.

It reminds me of the story of Ishmael and Hagar in Genesis 16. She too was in an impossible situation. She too cried out. And God heard.

An angel appeared to her, encouraging her that God had heard her crying, and that He would bless her and her son.

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are the God who sees me.'” Genesis 16:13

Many times I prayed and cried to the Lord for help, too and He answered. He sent a new friend who “happened” to work with kids on the spectrum. She taught me how to teach my son and walked with me through the therapies. She saw my little man as a person, not a diagnosis, and she was Jesus’ hands and voice to me many times.

The Lord had foreseen it all and the school district where we lived had an amazing special ed department. I felt the love of God for me and my son through the people there. As I prayed He continued to show up in the form of loving souls, including the church we started attending (expecting it not to work out), where still more people saw my son as a person and during the service would walk with him in the lobby or draw with him so I could go worship and he could be seen and loved.

Or the times I prayed for his speech or social delays and every time after I prayed he would suddenly make a leap forward in his abilities.

Friends I could go on and on, literally. God doesn’t take away the hard things, but in His great love He sees us. He walks with us. He meets our needs. Hard circumstances don’t alter His goodness – they are where He meets us and we see His love and goodness in action. They are where our faith forms and refines. And they, therefore, are blessings in the end.

My son is doing so well, and every new challenge we bring to the Lord because He is the answer. Because He is good and generous.

Where do you need to know God’s goodness this week? Cry out to Him, the God who sees you, too.

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

Sometimes another person’s journey with God speaks into your own, reminding you that no, you are not crazy, or alone: that God, the same One who’s been guiding and blessing your life, is also at work in those around you. My friend Courtney is one such person in my life. It’s amazing and wonderful to hear her God stories because they not only reflect my own but speak into my life too. She also happens to be a pastor and an author (the kind whose work you WANT to read because it’s fun and filled with meaning and poignancy hiding just below the humorous surface).

Today’s devotion is from her. And can I just add my Amen to her post?

P.S. And today, happy day, her book Uncluttered is out on Amazon! I’ve been so blessed by that book. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post and you’ll be hearing about it again. Please check it out and support her. ☺️

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

By Courtney Ellis

1. Please fix this immediately

We’ve all prayed this one, haven’t we? The job loss, the colicky baby, the years of singleness, the financial strain.

Yet the lessons learned in the waiting often cannot be learned any other way.

Continue reading…

Sinking Lifeboat

Our sweet and stressed out fluffball, Muppet.

My dog is playful and fun and sweet with people, but on walks… well our walks are proof positive that you can love and hate something at the same time. Our 25 pound fluffy buddy gets so excited as the leash goes on but becomes an anxious and sometimes difficult to manage companion once we hit the pavement. I don’t know what he went through before we got him, but I don’t think being a stray was fun for him. He startles at noises and falls apart when he sees another dog. I’ve done my best to build his confidence, hired a trainer, watched all the Dog Whisperer, but I guess there’s only so much I can do. He needs healing in his doggy heart.

And a better world to live in.

Today as we walked (ran, startled, cowered, bolted…) I sighed and longed for the day to come when all things will be made new. When there’s no more anxiousness or fear. When there’s nothing left to cause harm in all creation.

And I asked the Lord what He had to say to us, as we suffer many difficulties and fears in this present, broken world, and I felt His kindness toward us. Then in my mind I saw us in a sinking lifeboat – the world as we currently know it – and Him holding out a hand of rescue to us from a mighty ship passing by.

“Behold I am making all things new…” Rev 21:5

He’s going to make everything right, friends! Hallelujah!! And He offers us all to be part of that new world. That is the gospel, the GOOD news! Good wins, evil and death and suffering are cast out forever, and a remade creation thrives in peace, justice, goodness, and perfection under the kind and wise rule of a leader, Jesus, the Creator whose very essence is Love.

Hallelujah!! What a God, what a hope!

Reach out Him, friends! Pray! If you’ve never taken His hand of rescue, today is the day.

“What I mean brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. … For the world in its present form is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29a, 31b

Though She Be But Little…

Meet the stoat. He’s fluffy and adorable… and as fierce as they come.

Mr. Cuteness here can take down prey ten times his size. The secret: perseverance. He grabs on, holds on tight, and keeps biting till his prey bleeds too much to go on. Kinda gruesome, but it made me think – what an awesome picture of perseverance in prayer!

We see something (even something huge) that needs healing or fixing and we take it to God, knowing that He is bigger than this thing, and wise enough and good enough to bring good about. But doubts creep in. Fears begin to loom bigger than faith. We think “this beast will never go down, I am too small.” We think about letting go of Him, letting go of trust.

But here is what the stoat can teach us. It’s not the size of the problem (or the tininess of the pray-er), it’s the surety of the method! And prayer marked by patient, faithful trust in the good God Almighty is our proven method. The moment a doubt rears its head in us, we run back to God and seek Him, surrendering the problem to Him again. We keep running back to the Lord – asking His good will to be done in this situation, remembering all the times He’s cared for us. Affirming to Him again that we know He is unchanging and always good and infinitely powerful. And we wait on Him to act.

And the beast bleeds a little more.

A friend of mine right now is battling a sudden illness and the doctors don’t know how to treat it. Of course I went right to praying for her, but when I didn’t see immediate results, I got discouraged. Why wasn’t God answering? Should I stop praying? But God, knowing my heart, sent two messages (an email and a text) from two different people I’d recently prayed for, telling me how God had answered the prayers and how encouraged they were. Then my ill friend herself texted me to remind me of something God had shared with her in our prayers together that was keeping her encouraged.

And I realized – God is at work, right now. He is the God who hears. The God who never lets go of us, never stops working all things for the good of those who love Him.

Jesus said:
Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matt 7:9-11 GNT

The beast is bleeding, I just need to keep hanging on. Just wait in trust, and I know I will see my Father’s goodness and mercy and love win.

What can you bring before the Lord in patient trust today?

Lord, just like the weasel help us to never let go of faith in You and Your goodness. Bolster our faith in the promise that You give good gifts to Your children! In Jesus Name, Amen

The Lie of the City

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

I live in Los Angeles, in the heart of movieland. It’s a restless city, a city that attracts dreamers from all over the world looking to land the next big part or movie deal or writing gig. This city calls to us, tells us to work hard, never miss an opportunity, sacrifice it all, and then you can achieve those dreams.

But I was thinking about the message of my city and started to wonder – do we know what are true opportunities and what are dead ends (or worse)? How often are we running ourselves into the ground for nothing? Is achieving our dreams a goal that is even in line with God’s kingdom?

Who is guiding our lives – Jesus, or self?

Lately God has been calling me into times of rest, and it usually bumps up against the call of my culture to achieve, and never let up until I do. Which inner voice do I listen to? They war inside me! Eventually I realized that what I choose shows where my allegiance really lies.

Are my dreams the Lord of my life? Or is God – the one who died for me?

Taking time to rest in obedience to God’s call is a way to worship Him, and to show the world Who He is. He is the God who leads us into good things in His timing, the God who says “I made you for rest and not only work,” the Good Shepherd who leads us beside quiet waters, restores our souls, protects us from the enemy.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:1-4

We can lay our personal goals aside at the good feet of Him who loves us so deeply for a time, and obey the call to rest.

Do you feel driven to achieve something? What do you need to lay down at God’s feet today so that you can truly rest?