Today’s Worship Walk

 

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“He must increase, but I must decrease.

The one who comes from above is above all…”

John 3:30-31

 

These words by John the Baptist show a keen understanding of who he is, and who Jesus is. And rather than bringing John discouragement, this awareness fills him with joy! When his followers feel threatened by Jesus’ new ministry, John reassures them that this change is part of God’s bigger plan. No frustration or self-condemnation, just humility and contentment.

 

Question to Ponder: Do you look to God to show you what your ministry should (and should not) be?

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional” and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

Today’s Worship Walk: Philippians 1:9-10

 

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And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…”                                                            Philippians 1:9-10

 

Love is meant to grow in our lives, both in quantity and quality. God’s Word is full of verses about loving Him, ourselves and others. But here Paul challenges us to go to a whole new level.  If we want to be pleasing to our Heavenly Father, we will not only seek to love more, but more deeply each day. Then we will have a more mature kind of love that blesses us and glorifies Him.

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional” and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

Christian Quotes: John Wesley

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“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
At all the times you can, to all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley

 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians6:9

Friday’s Worship Walk

 

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But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

 

I don’t have any olive trees in my yard, so this oak will have to do. But I think the message can translate! Wherever we reside, our lives can be healthy and fruitful when we look to God as our Source.

Question to Ponder: In what area of your life do you need to trust God more?

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper” and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

 

God Made My Backyard A Retreat

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional” and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities that will help you grow in this area!

 

 

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”             Jeremiah 31:25

 

My backyard is one of my favorite places. On our first tour of the house, I caught sight of it out the dining room window and fell in love. The upper level right outside the back stairs leads to a set of stone steps. Down below sits half an acre of grass, broken up by a small patch of trees in the middle, and woods at the far edge of our property line.

A closer look shows that we are not great landscapers or gardeners. Most of the charm came through the work of the house’s former owners, who cleared a lot of trees and planted a lot of annuals. I’m embarrassed to admit that in the 20+ years we’ve lived here, it’s been all about maintenance rather than improvement.

But I can confidently say that no one else could have enjoyed this yard more than me. Whether it’s been watching the snow fly from inside in winter or hanging out around the fire pit on a summer evening, I’ve appreciated every angle of sunlight and change of color as the months go by. This Summer, I’ve been reminded of how special this small piece of land has been to me, and how God has used it to bring blessing to my heart.

Two particular examples come to mind. One was in early August during a busy spell, when the morning sun was bright and the air was clean. To paraphrase Maria in The Sound of Music, “The yard called to me.” Coffee cup in hand, I took myself out, walked the length, and settled on the top step. I soaked in a sense of both healing and delight – and spoke my praise out loud.

The other instance was not so delightful, but it was just as powerful. During one of my first afternoons alone all summer, I stepped outside just as before. But this time, my heart was heavy. Within a few seconds, tears were streaming down my face and I was crying out to God. But once again, a sense of healing came, this time with a calming touch. I sat on the step and let myself be quiet, waiting for what God had to say.

One of the greatest things about my yard is that God knew how much I’d treasure this space, and gave it to me as a loving gift. He wants to give all of us places like that, where we can find refreshment and joy in His presence.

 

 

 

Lessons From My Cat

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional“, and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139

A while ago, I wrote a devotional titled, “Lessons From My Dog,” which was inspired by my English Setter, Marcie. In the devo, I said how God uses all sorts of things to teach us – including pets. Think about it. We spend time feeding, petting, playing with, and even cleaning up after them. It makes sense that we would make some observations along the way right?

Let me just quickly restate a couple of the lessons I’ve learned from my dog.

First, Marcie’s shown me that it’s good to simplify. Her to-do list is pretty short: get up, go outside, get some good food, go back to sleep and repeat. I could do with a simpler daily plan myself.

Next, she reminds me that it’s good to check my heart attitude. Marcie is “slow to anger and abounding in love”, and her ability to forgive and forget quickly puts me to shame!

Finally, Marcie proves it is good to live in the moment. I often try to think ahead or rehash the past – sometimes my body and mind end up in separate time zones!  Embracing today – that’s where I’ll find joy.

Now for my other furry friend. Because, as God has used Marcie, He’s also used Galaxy, our white longhaired kitty with pale blue eyes and double paws. Here are some things I’ve picked up from her:

It’s good to know who you are and where to get your needs met. Now, I don’t think my cat’s a Christian (is that even possible??), yet she acts like she really understands this Psalm 139 verse. It is special to be her, and we all need to remember that! I, on the other hand, struggle a lot with feeling very un-special. I need to think about those words of King David, for they are as true for me as they are for her.

Galaxy shows me it is good to know what my needs are, and who to go to for them. I’m the one she goes to, and she asks eagerly and repeatedly until I provide the food or attention she’s looking for. She becomes like the woman Jesus mentions who pesters the judge with her request until he gives in. Like Galaxy, I should know who to go to with my most important needs. My Heavenly Father already knows what they are – Jesus said so. In fact, He’s waiting to hear from me.

And finally, my cat has taught me that It’s good to make time for play. In fact, when she doesn’t get enough play time, she gets restless – her meow actually sounds a little grumpy. I don’t blame her – that’s how I can get without time to rest and play, too. God and Galaxy are telling me I need to lighten up!

The toys don’t have to be fancy, either. When we first got Galaxy, I went out and bought toys that rolled and jingled and dangled. But do you know what she likes best? A piece of kitchen twine that she can chase around – perfect for her. Now, chasing twine is not my thing. But laughing with a good friend over coffee, or taking a walk outside and soaking in sunshine? Those are my kind of toys!

I want to finish all this with the final thought from my “dog Devo”: “Who’d have thought that a dog (or cat) could be so wise?” Well, God did! He blesses us with our animal companions, and then works through them to make us smarter. Pretty clever, don’t you think?

 

True Strength From God



“The Lord gives strength to His people…”                         Psalm 29:11


I’m listening this morning to the annual reading of names at Ground Zero in New York City – the victims of the September 11 attacks, as well as at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa. And earlier, as I watched police carry in one of the flags from the Twin Towers to the sound of a bagpipe and drum corps, I found myself tearing up all over again. It’s amazing how so many years later the moments and emotions of that day well up so quickly. Most of us can remember where we were that morning, the dismay and outright fear we felt when it became clear the plane crashes had not been accidents. We, as a nation, became united in terror and grief.

One of the first things I felt in those days, after the initial shock, was admiration for people like the first responders who ran into the towers, the clergy and mental health workers who hurried down to local aid stations, the people around the world who opened their homes to stranded travelers during the air flight ban. It was the best of human nature on display in response to the worst of it.

A measure of goodness does exist inside each one of us, as well as an impulse to help our fellow man. But anytime I see such selflessness, I am convinced there is more going on. You could give credit to an adrenaline rush or desire for fame. But I choose to give glory to God instead. Think about it – why would someone choose to put themselves in obvious danger to save a person they don’t even know? Or how could they lay their own sleep and food aside for days at a time to give trauma counseling to strangers? These acts are echoes of Jesus in a fallen world that often doesn’t even acknowledge Him.

The word “strength” (and related terms) is used over 350 times in the Bible. It is used first in the Old Testament to describe God’s innate power to create and save (“…he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength…” Numbers 4:37). And it is then used in verses onward to the end of the New Testament as a reminder of where our true strength comes from. (“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4.)

This is the strength Jesus leaned on as He gave Himself over to death for us. And there are hints of that strength shown by people in the world every day. Just imagine – if God has the grace to enable unbelievers to do good works, how much more does He want to equip His children to be “heroes” for His kingdom?

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-day Devotional“, and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities that will help you grow in this area!

 

 

 

 

Letting Go of Stuff

God desires our worship. But what does that mean? 

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional”  and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”                 Matthew 6:19-21

We had a spur-of-the-moment tag sale last weekend. Not much, just a couple pieces of furniture, some china and knick knacks, and lots of books – the remnants of our last “possession purge.”  My daughter and her boyfriend agreed to put everything out and run the sale, and we agreed to let them take the proceeds.

I ended up stepping in to relieve them at one point during the day. I got the pricing instructions ($5 for the American Girl dolls and the coffee table, everything else is best offer!), and sat in one of the lawn chairs. Not long after, a woman pulled over and got out. We exchanged hellos, and she began to pick her way through the items.

As I watched her lift up a ceramic colander, I thought wistfully about how much I had loved the color when I bought it. The blue glass candy holder she checked out next reminded me of my mom – she has a big collection in her house. And so it went, everything the woman touched setting off a memory or association. By the time she decided what to buy, it took me a minute to jump back to the present moment to give her change.

That reminiscing seems to happen whenever I try to thin out our extra stuff. So, as you can imagine, it’s taken quite a while to make any progress. It’s fun to travel down memory lane, but the stroll can make it hard to stay focused on clearing away the clutter.

I’ve often wished I was better at getting rid of outdated or outgrown things. I’ve dreamt of living in a house with open spaces, clear tabletops and an organized basement. But if I ever do get that far, I’m too sentimental to keep it up. The truth is, I like having visual reminders around me of people and moments.

A tag sale, though, is all about letting go of things. It’s handing over those items to strangers who frankly don’t care that my grandmother made pancakes in that mixing bowl every Sunday morning. They wouldn’t be impressed with how long it took me to collect all those figurines, either.

I feel a sadness creep over me while handing something over, as if a sacred stone is changing hands. It’s a folding bleacher seat, for goodness sake! It may be the end of my time with an item, but it will have a new home. My emotional attachment is a bit over the top.

Jesus’ words in Matthew are a gentle reminder to me that whatever possessions I have in this world won’t last. But I can hold the stories of people and moments in my heart forever. And truly, the greatest treasure I have is knowing the One who provides all things for me.

 

Handling Change Better

He“My God Is my rock, in whom I take refuge…”         Psalm 18:2

We did a pretty big gardening project at my house this summer. Our goal was to clear out our front lawn and add some color. What stood in our way were six very large yewel bushes that ran across the front of our house and porch. They’d been there for at least 2 decades, firmly rooted and in no hurry to leave.

My husband consulted YouTube for a how-to video, then he and my daughter set to work. They clipped and sawed and shovelled and yanked, and within about a week the six ‘Goliaths’ were cut down. Now, you won’t be surprised to hear that I barely touched dirt during this phase. But I was an impressive supervisor!

Next, we planted new and “used” things we already had in the beds, including three holly bushes from our shady backyard. Two of the bushes transferred pretty well. But one of them wilted pretty quickly. It’s leaves started turning brown, and frankly it looked unhappy, if that’s possible for plants.

While we were at a local nursery eying hydrangeas, we asked about the holly bush. Their advice was to feed it some special food and give it some extra shade. “It might just be a little overwhelmed by the change,” one of the pros said.

Overwhelmed  by the change. Boy, that phrase resonated with me. Many times I’ve reacted to changes like that holly bush did – getting wilted and unhappy. And I’m not just talking about the big life-altering kind of change, either.

Well, I’ve discovered over the years that life is full of unexpected changes! And I finally realized that life would be a lot easier to navigate and a lot more enjoyable if I were to learn how to handle them better when they come. I can at least say I’m better than I used to be. But any improvement is God’s doing, not my own. He’s used His Word as well as His Spirit to teach me some important truths along the way:

God doesn’t change.

Nature reflects this. As a day goes by, the sun shifts, and the light changes. But God’s light stays on all the time! I need to look to Him to see where I’m going.

God knows everything about my life.

Nothing about me or my world surprises God – that’s a comforting thought. And turning to Him gives me strong support to face whatever’s coming next.

God is always up to something good.

He’s active all the time on our behalf. Deciding to trust Him leads me to calm down and have a more positive,”  attitude.

When I keep these mind, I end up less like that poor holly bush when changes come. And I end up growing closer to the One who helps me navigate through them.


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For more devotionals, check out my book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper,” and my ebook, “Worshipping Like David,” available now on Amazon.com!