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

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“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!

Brutal Honesty that Frees

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Our relationship with God isn’t like the ones we have with most people. We hold back from others, rarely showing all we really think or feel. And that’s probably a good thing. But what happens when we hide from ourselves too, and from God?

What if what we’re feeling and wanting or have committed is too dark, too ugly even for us to face?

We hide, like Adam and Eve did. When confronted, Adam still couldn’t face what he had done and blamed it on Eve. It was too scary to be honest with God or himself! I get that. But what can we learn from that story?

Remember when Eve talked to the snake, how the devil planted the idea in her mind that God was actually holding out on them? That God knew that if they ate from the forbidden tree they’d become like Him, so that’s why He forbade it? Stingy God he whispered to her heart. She believed the snake. And instantly a rift grew between the human and her Maker.

But what if Eve had run to the Lord instead? What if she had shared what she was feeling and asked God for His perspective?

I’ve often been in this kind of situation, believing lies about God or about my friends, family, or self. And what I wanted or did as a result of believing those lies was usually pretty ugly and definitely not something I was going to be honest about with God or myself. Hiding was much easier.

But one day some years ago I read a book about the Psalms and my eyes were opened to how brutally honest David was with God. He wanted death and misery for his enemies, or even his own death and he didn’t mince words. Whoa there dude – that’s God you’re talking to! But then you see how David ended up worshipping God every time. Surrendering his needs or fears to God. The honesty was freeing and an act of worship!

I tried it one day when I was struggling too much to hide anymore. I knew I was going to fall into sin without God’s help. So I went to Him in prayer and told Him in graphic detail what I was feeling and wanting, as an act of surrender. Help me want what You want. Give me your heart in place of this ugliness. Redeem this mess, Lord.

And in flooded wisdom, a fresh perspective, true love for the others I would have hurt. Truth grew and lies suddenly dissipated like a formless mist! It’s amazing how, like Eve, we’ll believe ugly things without ever going to the Source of truth or questioning them. But God took every ugly bit from me and redeemed it, transformed my heart and mind. All I had to do was be honest and hand it over.

Not my ugly will be done, but Your excellent and good will.

Now I’ve learned to share boldly and bluntly with God what I’m thinking and feeling and desiring as an act of trust and worship. I come to Him quickly when I’ve done wrong because I know that all things committed into His hands become beautiful even when I thought they were irredeemable, even when I thought I was irredeemable. Hiding is useless and prolongs the life and effect of the ugly. He heals all things.

What are you feeling today? Take some time being deeply, brutally honest with the Lord and approach Him not as though He’s someone stingy or who will destroy or tsk tsk you – but as a loving Father, full of grace toward you, who delights to fix what is broken and point you toward true wisdom and deeper, richer relationship with Him! Being honest feels bad at first; it wounds the pride. But that broken up ground in your heart is the place where new, good, healing things can grow by His hand.

La La La I’m Not Listening

Photo by Willis Henderson on Unsplash

I’m not proud of this, but this week I hid from God.

Every winter our church takes shifts helping at a local homeless shelter and they’ve been asking for us to sign up all month.

Scary.

Every time it came up in service I’d find something in the bulletin that suddenly looked really interesting or realize how good a tea refill sounded or gosh I need to run to the restroom…

It was a bit harder to run from the Spirit’s tugging on my heart during the weekdays but I’m nothing if not stubborn and inventive. Look at this dusty vase! That can’t go undusted another 9 months!

But then last Wednesday I got a text from a friend, a friend who had admitted to me before that homeless ministry makes her anxiety go through the roof. Yet this friend had just seen that no one was signed up for Friday, so she’d signed up alone, taking on the work of 8 if need be.

Because that’s what real love does – it jumps in regardless of personal cost. Her heart was bigger than her fear.

I saw my own fear and avoidance (and heart 3-sizes-too-small) plainly in that moment. I knew the Lord had been pointing me all week to sign up for Friday, and to try to recruit others, but I’d plugged my ears, closed my heart. Embarrassed, I jumped in to help her recruit others and get food together. I spent the next three days praying for the courage and willingness to show up at the shelter.

Friday night I pushed passed the anxiety in my heart and headed with my family to the shelter. But as I entered the dining room, fear melted away. I felt God’s loving presence in that space, reaching out to hungry hearts. I watched my friend serving food and sharing from her heart. She shone. It was amazing to see God’s love pouring out of her and she seemed at ease. I walked out to serve hot drinks and awkwardly struck up a conversation with an elderly man. We talked for half an hour about musicals and art and books and the craziness of living in Los Angeles. God gave me His heart, His eyes and allowed me to see the people in front of me. People He died for. People I might never have had the joy of meeting if I’d kept running from the Lord.

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

What is God calling you to do this week?

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…

Impatient

The morning commute to school…

You know those days where you wake up and you feel like you’re already behind with everything you need to do? And the panic you feel makes you just a little bit crazy because I have to do all the things!

That was my morning. AND, people seemed to be driving like it was their first time behind the wheel. Our normally very skilled crossing guard was off her game directing traffic at the busy school intersection. The red lights just. wouldn’t. change. and my GPS seemed to be directing me to every. single. one. of. them.

AAARGH!!

(some of you are very glad right now you don’t live in Los Angeles…)

At one of those red lights, a few angry outbursts in, I finally I realized the state of my heart was a little…not OK…and paused.

Lord, what is wrong with me? I feel like something is cutting me off from You.

Then came the nudge, the reminder in my heart– I needed to offer my day (and its demands) to the Maker and Sustainer of Everything. To Jesus. He alone knows what truly needs to be done today, and when, and for whom. Taking everything on myself was too much for me — I couldn’t even control something as small as a traffic light!

But by faith I could trust HIM to work it all out, to guide me to what truly needs to be done.

Have you ever tried to live this way? Take a moment with the Lord and tell Him the day is His, laying aside your will and desires as of secondary importance, and ask Him to put on your heart whatever HE knows you need to do at any given moment. And then follow the flow of His leading.

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

On Christ the Solid Rock

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Have you guys ever had this experience: you’re reading or watching or listening to something, and suddenly God was speaking to you through it? It’s like the whole room dims and it’s just you and Him and lights are turning on – your heart just knows something?

It happened to me yesterday at church. You may recall how I’m in this waiting season, wondering what’s coming next cause nothing feels stable anymore. Well as I’m singing

…On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand…

all of a sudden the Lord made me realize how much I was standing on the sand. My sense of security has come from the familiar – my friends, family, church and local community. But lately so many things have been changing. Even many of my closest friends, for many reasons, aren’t available as much as they used to be. Shifting sands. And I feel scared or uncertain.

But it was as if God was saying to me: whether you live here till your dying breath or leave all of this behind for a new physical home, I AM the one stable, unchanging love in your life.

It’s easier to lean on those I can see (and hug!) around me, but even in these few hours since He spoke to me I’m already seeing that leaning (standing!) on Him brings a peace that swallows up uncertainty about life circumstances. When waves of fear begin to swell in me I run to Him and find this reassurance – He didn’t go anywhere, His love for me hasn’t changed. He is still totally wise and totally good and I’m totally His.

And it’s going to be OK.

What are the sands in your life that you tend to lean on?