Category Archive: Praise

How do we Give Thanks – All the Time?

How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.

How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:

  • We lose a loved one to death
  • Divorce enters our lives or families
  • Children rebel
  • Pain wracks our bodies or minds
  • Finances are a challenge, or
  • A spouse or child rejects Christ?

Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.

Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.

In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?

  • Because we have a God who cares (Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
  • Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
  • Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).

And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.

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.

When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!

Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?

 

 

post by carolnl | | 2

Drawn to Worship

Don and I stepped onto the walk-on ferry from Cannes, France, and found our seats. Motoring through the cerulean waters, we passed St. Marguerite Island, which held a stone fortress which used to be a large prison. Cannes, and its busy, over-the-top multi-million dollar yachts, its Cannes Film Festival red carpet (coming two weeks after our visit), its high-rise hotels and spectacular villas, receded into the distance. The water’s various blue hues inspired wonder as we approached the dock at Isle St. Honorat. Sailboats of various sizes and styles dotted the water surrounding this small piece of land which has been home to a community of monks since the fifth century.

Tradition says that Honoratus settled on the island, intending to live the life of a hermit. However, disciples followed him and formed a monastic community.  Their life on the island was often interrupted by raids, primarily by Saracens. The monks were expelled when the island was captured by the Spanish in 1635; however, they returned two years later when France retook Isle St. Honorat.

Continuing attacks on the monastery by Spanish and Genoese reduced the number of monks to four, and the monastery was disestablished in 1787.

In 1859, the Bishop of Frejus bought the island with the intent of reestablishing a religious community there. Ten years later, a Cistercian community was established, which has remained there since.

We were not allowed to enter the monastery; however, we could walk up to enter the church and visit the tower. The walk was beautiful. Vineyards lined both sides of the dirt road, and the monastery’s tower was clearly visible against an azure sky.

As we walked past the shops where the monks sell wine and honey made from local produce, we also saw the effect of loving care for the property. Red, pink, periwinkle flowers grew up against stuccoed walls, reaching toward the sun. I took photos and delighted in the beauty of the scene, when I heard music coming from the church. Yes, we had arrived while the monks were singing their daily mass. The acoustics in the high-ceilinged, beautiful-without-being-ornate church, bounced the monks’ antiphonal sounds into the courtyard and thrilled my being. Quietly entering the church, many of us sat to listen and worship as the monks sang “Hallelujah.”

Here we were, on another side of the world, enjoying worship with monks we’d never met, with different languages yet united in “hallelujah” to our God. That will remain a treasured moment in my soul.

When has your spirit been drawn to worship because of music, a kind word, or a loving touch?

 

Real Prayers – Gratitude

Gratitude opens doors to relationships. That’s one of the values Pastor Rene shared with us recently. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can choose my attitude. Some benefits of gratitude are improved physical health, reduction of aggression, better sleep and self-esteem, and increased mental strength. Those are worth a lot!

"Please, Sir, help us!"

“Please, Sir, help us!”

He told the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus, hoping to be healed. (Luke 17:11-14)

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they cried.

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” The priests were the ones who could allow a cleansed leper to return to society. Interesting that Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests BEFORE they knew they were healed.  That required faith on the part of the lepers … looking down at finger stubs, missing toes, they may have thought, “Why? Nothing has changed.” But somehow they trusted Jesus enough to follow His directive, and ON THE WAY they were healed. They must have been overwhelmed with awe and joy. Being whole would allow them to return to their homes and families rather than living among the rocks and stones with other lepers.

leper-thanking-jesusBut wait. Ten asked for Jesus’ help. Ten followed his directive to go to the priests for a clean bill of health. But only one came back to thank Jesus. What about the other nine? Were they just so excited they rushed off without thinking of giving thanks to the One who healed their bodies? Rene said that people who don’t say thank you quickly often don’t say it at all.

Ten obeyed, but only one worshipped.

How often do I make a request of my Father, then not even notice when my prayer is answered? I want to be attuned to recognize His answers, to thank Him quickly, and often, for the graces He bestows on me.

“I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” Psalm 118:21.

For what will you thank God today? 

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The Sounds of Praise

The silence was profound. On this 450-acre ranch where children live, learn, and work, quiet comes early. And after riding in an SUV for about 15 hours, Don and I climbed into bed and listened to the enfolding stillness. Once again our team had arrived at Rancho Santa Marta in Baja, California, under stars that shone out of an inky night. Our lids grew heavy with impending, renewing sleep.

We wakened to hear rain pounding on the metal roof of our room. Rain, glorious rain. Baja has also been in drought, and they welcome the rain as we do in California. We listened to it pound, then slow, then ratchet up again as we prepared for church.

SONY DSC

Sounds of Praise

We walked to the chapel as our team leader, Bob Moorhead, sent organ melodies through the air. The praise continued as some of the young adults who’ve grown up at RSM led us in singing. We joined in, in Spanish, as we could. During a time for congregants to give thanks, one after another thanked God for the “uvea,” the rain. I spoke too: “We are so happy to be here at Rancho Santa Marta again. We consider you all a part of our family, and it is our joy to watch you grow in life, in education and in love for Jesus.”

We had arrived early enough to greet some of our dear young friends before the service began. Hugs were warm and heartfelt. I was particularly grateful for a bit of time to spend with some of my high school friends after the church service, because they return to Ensenada Sunday afternoons, where they attend school during the week. I knew this was the only time I would see them. Conversations included the recent mission trip of one, and her desire to become a missionary; goals and challenges of life for others, and the importance of friends who know us and hold us accountable to truth. This was another sound … the sound of hearts sharing in love before our Father.

This week we have the privilege of helping build “Victor’s House,” a home for older boys whose limitations keep them on the ranch, even as adults. About 48 children live here; another 150 are bused in for school every day. This ministry is far-reaching as it impacts the lives of children, their families, the community, and the world in teaching or mission trips. We are grateful for all we have heard here over the years, including the sounds of hammers and nailguns, rafters being raised, children laughing; and sometimes of tears when a houseparent is dealing with a rebellious child, or when one makes poor choices that impact their future.

This week, as we work, I want to listen especially for heart needs. Many I can do nothing about; some I may be able to help just a tiny bit. But I can pray. And that may be the most powerful work of all.

What have you heard this week that touched your soul?

 

Thanks-giving

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Ps. 30:11-12, NLT

For what have you given thanks this week?  You may be in a difficult season. God knows that, yet wants us to praise Him. Sometimes it’s a challenge, isn’t it, finding ways to give thanks even in turmoil.

So here are some of my thanks-reasons.Thank you!

I am thankful:

  1.  For a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” John 3:16, MSG
  2. For the (sequential) love of two wonderful husbands, and the presence of God throughout joy and sorrow, recovery and renewal.
  3. For family: that my sweet mother is still with us at age 94, sound of mind although weakening in body
    • Times of laughter around a beautifully set table wafting the scent of aromatic herbs throughout the room
    • One of my grand-nieces smiling up at me, dimples creasing her chubby chipmunk cheeks, as I gaze at her in my arms
    • All our family members, with the unique gifts each brings to us all.
  4. For Friends, a true treasure.
  5. SONY DSCFor beauty: God’s creation is all around me. In the foothills above Capitola Beach (CA), I’m surrounded by pine-covered hills, by trees wearing vibrant reds, yellows and a myriad of greens, by cerulean blue sky and fire-red sunsets.
  6. For God’s faithfulness and sovereignty, and the confidence that nothing in my life, or future, will take Him by surprise.
  7. That no event, loss, pain, or fear can remove me from His love; nor is anything I do beyond the reach of His loving compassion and forgiving heart.
  8. For hope in adversity.
  9. For the many who are serving people in need at home and across the world by providing shelter, food and care to the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution and death; and by sharing the Good News Jesus brings to all.???????????????????????????????
  10. For music, and the joy of singing again.
  11. For opportunities to serve others.
  12. For two sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, who give me many opportunities to love and laugh.

And there’s more … oh, there’s so much more. But that’s my start. How about yours?