Today’s Worship Walk – Tuesday

 

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In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.”

Psalm 5:3

I have noticed a definite difference in my attitude when I start my day having quiet time with God versus when I don’t. Even if I can only grab 5 minutes before I run out the door, being in his presence calms my spirit and wakes me up to the blessings I’ve already received. Taking the time to lift my prayers and praises aligns my heart with his, so I can go out and be a blessing to others.

Today’s Worship Walk – Thursday

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“The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Psalm 29:11

 

This verse is very meaningful for me – I often add it to cards I send out. Strength and peace may not seem like two characteristics that naturally go together. But verses like this are describing more of an emotional than physical strength. Said another way, it’s to be “renewed in heart.” And as I go through challenging times, it brings me peace to know God will provide me with strength beyond my own.

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!

 

 

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?

 

God Has A Better Dream For Me

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May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”   Psalm 20:16

I saw the movie “La La Land” this past weekend, and enjoyed it immensely. Without giving too much away, it’s the story of young, hopeful performers in Los Angeles, two of whom fall in love. One of the main characters sang a song called “The Ones Who Dream”, a sweet and sincere tribute to people who create. Here’s how the chorus goes:

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

Walking out of the theater, memories of my own stab at fame back in my 20’s came to mind. I could relate to all the feelings of longing and angst the characters expressed. It was a time filled with tremendous energy – when every audition was fraught with both hope and anxiety. After several crazy years I finally had to step back and look at things more realistically. It was the right thing to do, but painful. After all,  I was walking away from a dream I’d had since childhood.

Ironically, insecurity was probably my strongest trait back then. And since I had no relationship with God, I was on my own. My answer to feelings of insecurity was to push myself harder, usually with affirmations like I am talented and special! Positive thinking had it’s limits, though, and so did my own strength.

Like the music in the movie, letting go of my dream to make the big time was bittersweet. But I realize now that doing that opened the door to a whole other kind of life. God had actually planted a desire in my heart that went deeper than artistic success, and His plan was to make my best dreams come true.

I’m sure no one who made “La La Land” intended it to have any kind of message about God. But for me, the story was a great reminder of how tough life is without Him, and how blessed I am to have His strength and vision for my journey.

 

The Challenge of Unanswered Prayer Part 2

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Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 27:14

My last post ended on a bit of cliffhanger – one that unfortunately lasted about 5 months! I won’t spend a lot of time trying to explain myself, except to say that life (and in my case health) truly did get in the way of doing something I love so much. But I am sorry for letting so much time slip by. I’ve missed writing and sharing, and hope those of you who have so faithfully followed me in my journey will join back up with me now. And so, onward!

As I pointed out in Part 1, the issue of unanswered prayer is thorny for Christians. It certainly has been for me. It’s hard not to get something that I really want, or to be saddled long-term with something I don’t want. And I’ll admit that many times I haven’t been gracious about being in either situation, uttering lots of “God, where are You?” kinds of prayers. Continue reading “The Challenge of Unanswered Prayer Part 2”

The Challenge of Unanswered Prayer Part 1

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Last Sunday, the sermon in my church was on the topic of unanswered prayer. A tough subject, to be sure, and not the most popular. The whole notion of God not answering our prayers is troubling. In fact, it’s one of the leading complaints used by non-believers. You’ve heard variations of this:

If God loves you, why didn’t He give you what you asked for?

Well if God is good, why does He let people suffer?

Where is God while all this terrible stuff is happening in the world?

Valid questions – maybe you’ve asked them yourself at one time or another. However it’s worded, it comes from the same place. As humans, we want to feel secure and settled, and unanswered prayer works directly against that goal.

I have to admit, I struggled through the sermon, because it hit a little too close to home for me. I’ve written before about some of the challenges I’m facing now, especially the RA. And so far, there hasn’t been healing for this disease, or resolution in other situations. I’ve reached a sort of impass about it.

Prayer used to seem like a simple thing to me. As a young believer, I somehow got it into my head that if a prayer request seemed reasonable and good, then it would eventually get answered. I found that notion  comforting and positive. But like all “baby Christian” beliefs, it wasn’t accurate. And God knew I needed to be set straight.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen lots of examples of good prayers that have gone unanswered. Prayers for healing, for salvation, for rescue – made by godly people with godly characters. And I’ve watched as they waited. Well, now it’s my turn, and there’s a part of me that’s wishing for the good old days of ignorance.

I’ve been exploring the truth that there are no guarantees my prayers will get answered. I may study God’s Word and think I’m praying the way He wants me to, with the right motives, and still not receive a yes from Him. I’ll share more about that journey in my next blog. Meantime, here’s a teaser and a promise for you:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 27:14

 

A Psalm A Day…

The Pastor of my church has issued a challenge – for us to read a psalm (or at least part of one) every night. So the last few nights I’ve been doing that, and God’s already been giving me some new things to ponder.

I’m not going in any particular order, which adds a note of excitement. What did He show me tonight? Well, here’s my reading, Psalm 3.

“LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!  Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Now, I have to share that in the last few days I’ve felt overwhelmed by life, physically and mentally exhausted. Reading this Psalm did two things for me: it calmed my spirit and it got me excited. Those might sound opposed to each other, but they actually can work together.

I felt calmed by the idea that God will be there for me during my troubles. David talks a lot aboout that in the Psalms, doesn’t he? As if that wasn’t enough, I saw more – a whole list of promises David claims that God gives to His people. I went slowly, taking them in for myself.

God will:

  • Be a shield around me
  • Lift my head high
  • Answer me from His holy mountain
  • Sustain me
  • Arise
  • Deliver me
  • Strike my enemies
  • Bless me

Can you feel a sense of excitement bubble up inside you at these truths? The Psalms are loaded with them. And you can get your fill anytime. The question is, are you willing to take up the challenge of daily Psalm reading?

Meditation

bible-heart-1178881What do you think of when you hear the word “meditate?” I’ll be honest, my thoughts used to run along the lines of sitting cross-legged and chanting a mantra. That was how I heard the word used most often growing up. So it was a revelation to me to learn that meditation is mentioned in scripture.

Christian meditation differs from the eastern version, though. Probably the most important way they differ is in where our thoughts are meant to be focused while we do it. Someone following the eastern style would use a mantra (a repeated word or phrase) or a visualization, to help the mind clear away distractions. The result would be an “empty” mind, and concentration on the act of breathing itself.

In the Bible, however, we see that God has a very different method and purpose for this discipline. These scriptures give clear direction about what we are to focus on:

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”                                                                                                    Joshua 1:8

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.”                                                                                                                   Psalms 48:9

“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.”                                                                                                Psalms 119:99

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”                                                           Psalms 119:48

 

Did you catch all the things we can focus our thoughts on?

  • His Law
  • His love
  • His statutes
  • His promises

And how about these: His promises; His deeds; His wonders; His miracles: HIM! And the result? A more joyful heart and a stronger faith – much better than being empty, right?

So don’t shy away from the idea of meditation. It was used in God’s Word even before it took on it’s more popular associations with eastern religions. Set aside some time specifically to focus your mind on your Lord, and watch what happens.

Still Letting Go…

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“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day…”                                     Psalm 91:5

It’s been a few days since my daughter took off on her newest adventure – 13 hours on a bus on her own to visit family. She got there just fine and has been having a great time, which I’d been praying for. Though I stayed behind, this week is a journey of sorts for me as well – starting on the drive home from the station.

Before her bus even pulled into the station, my husband and I had taken the on-ramp to the highway. I tried hard not to keep looking at the dashboard clock, but my thoughts kept jumping back to her waiting at the station- Is the bus boarding yet? Is it heading out yet?

In the midst of all that fretting, I had a little out-of-body experience. What I mean is, I think God helped me step back enough to get a clear look at myself. And what I saw really troubled me. Not only because I was being an overprotective mom, but because I recognized this behavior as my default setting.

Fear certainly can be a helpful emotion, reminding us to prepare for challenges and keep alert in certain situations. It can be a tool that helps us protect ourselves and those we care about. But there can be a point when we listen too much to our fear – when we give it too much power over our thoughts.

Somewhere along the way, I let fear become dominant in my life. It’s whispered in my ear and colored my thinking. It’s entered into all my decision-making. The result? A small, timid approach to life that has held me back. How many adventures did I miss out on? And worse, how many have I kept my kids from having?

It was that last question that really haunted me on the way home from the bus station. And it’s the one I’ve been pondering all week. As a mom, I want my kids to be safe, to be aware and alert as they venture into the world. But I think instead of equipping them to soar, I may have been unintentionally clipping their wings…