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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

 

 

Just twelve days to Christmas 2017. Are you too immersed in preparation? In all honesty, I’m scrambling a bit in order to accomplish the remaining items on the must-do list: finish the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, clean the house before the first guests arrive on Saturday, etc.

And for me, with the scrambling comes that uncomfortable feeling I’ll never get everything done.

It’s so silly, I tell myself. In the final analysis will our friends and family care if their cards arrive after Christmas? Is it necessary the packages be just so? Will our guests mind if every surface of the house isn’t gleaming?

Of course not. But my OCD tendencies still want to press me toward those expectations.

So what can I do to calm my spirit? I’m thinking the answer is worship.  I can express to God my gratitude, praise, and adoration–even while writing cards, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house.

 

 

Scripture assures me that, as I worship in God’s presence, I will experience:

 

  1. Peace.

 

 

  1. Joy.

You, [O God], will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16:11b

  1. Rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

 

 

What a glorious gift worship is! Isn’t it just like our loving Father to bless us as we seek to bless him?

And so, while writing the Christmas cards, I am praising God for friends and extended family spread all over the country, and praying for them, too.

 

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you for (insert name).

Thank you for their influence in our lives,

Their support and affection.

Thank you for treasured memories of time spent together.

We may have lived apart for many years,

Yet the bonds of love hold firm because of you.

Bless them, I pray, with joy in each day,

Provision and protection too.

 

While wrapping the family’s gifts I can offer praise on behalf of the recipients.

 

 

Your goodness, O Lord, has impacted our family again and again.

Every member has his/her stories to tell of

Your wonders, interventions, and miracles.

I praise you for each loved one—

His/her gifts and personality traits,

The delight You give us in each other.

I praise you we are able to gather once more

In celebration of you, our indescribable gift.

.

While cleaning, I can focus on gratitude. What am I thankful for in each room?

 

 

I praise you, Father for our cozy home,

for the perfectly sized dining set you provided

And the hutch we found rather miraculously.

I praise you for the large windows

Across the back of the house,

giving us a grand view of the backyard trees.

And I praise you that with gratitude

Even housekeeping can be turned into joyful worship.

 

Throughout the day, whatever the task, I can meditate on the wonder of what Jesus our Savior has accomplished.

And marvel again that it all began with his humble birth in a stable-cave:

 

(Gerard von Honthorst, 1622)

 

“O Sovereign God!

You have humbled yourself in order to exalt us.

You became poor so that we might become rich.

You came to us so that we can come to you.

You took upon yourself our humanity

In order to raise us up into eternal life.

All this comes through your grace,

Free and unmerited;

All this through your beloved Son,

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth

 

Come! Let us adore him—even as we work!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.flickr.com; publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

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“The Church thrills and thrives,

multiplies and advances

on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing

that we simply call song.”

–Jack W. Hayford*

 

 

And at no time of year is that more true than during Advent. Christmas carols seem to waft on a unique Holy Spirit breeze of blessing all their own.

Part of the blessing is in the familiarity, the memories they evoke of Christmases past. Many of us are predisposed to sentimentality, especially at this time of year. Just listen to how often we wistfully say, “Oh, that reminds of…”

 

 

But are familiarity and nostalgia the only reasons we love our Christmas songs? No, it’s the lyrics themselves that contribute to the breeze of blessing—lyrics that remind us:

 

  • God’s gifts far surpass what is under the Christmas tree.

 

“God imparts to human hearts

the blessings of his heaven” (1).

 

  • Jesus brings wisdom and contentment to our lives.

 

“This child, now weak in infancy,

our confidence and joy shall be” (2).

 

 

  • He is our Emmanuel, God with us.

 

“Love has come—He will never leave us…

Love is Jesus within and among us” (3).

 

  • He has made it possible for us to spend eternity with him in heaven.

 

“Jesus Christ was born for this!

He hath opened heaven’s door

And man is blessed forevermore” (4).

 

 

  • The day is coming when we will be privileged to sing with the angels, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6)!

 

“When the new heaven and earth shall own

The Prince of Peace their King,

And the whole world send back the song

Which now the angels sing” (5).

 

 

Now that will be a song wafting on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing.

Can you imagine the scene? Thousands of us in row after row singing our praise to God and celebrating the Prince of peace, our King.

Perhaps we’ll sing harmonies never even dreamt of on earth. And in a perfect heaven with perfectly miraculous acoustics, not only will we be able to hear the voices of those nearby, but the composite whole of the largest, grandest choir ever to sing.

Will there be those who stand in silence and choose not to participate? Impossible. How about folks who barely open their mouths and just whisper-sing? No, I can’t see that happening either.

Surely we’ll all sing with euphoric enthusiasm, hearts bursting with joy that:

  • Every blessing of heaven is now ours (1)—blessings we can’t even imagine now because we’re so limited in our knowledge and understanding.
  • Our confidence in Jesus has been rewarded beyond imagination (2).
  • Our loving, Savior is finally with us in Person as well as in Spirit (3).
  • Eternal bliss will be ours forevermore (4).
  • We’re able to join the angels in glorious song for the Prince of Peace our King (5).

But there’s no reason to wait until we’ve joined the angel choir.

We can sing as if performing for our King now.

Because we are.

Sing a song of Christmas, my friend, on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing!

__________________________________________________

  1. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” verse 3, line 2.
  2. “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light,” verse 1, lines 3 and 4.
  3. “Love Has Come,” verse 3, lines 1 and 2.
  4. “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” verse 2, lines 2-4.
  5. “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” verse 3, lines 3 and 4.

*from the Foreword of The Celebration Hymnal, Integrity Music, 1997.

 

Which Christmas carol wafts a breeze of Holy Spirit blessing through your spirit?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.army.mil.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.Art4TheGlryOfGod; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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Conventional wisdom teaches that success comes to those who work hard to achieve their goals.  And to a point that’s true.

But.  Success can quickly crumble when tragedy strikes.

Ask Job; he’ll tell you.  He was an extremely wealthy man and the greatest among all the people of the East.

He enjoyed a large, loving family.  His children liked each other so much they partied together.

Job was blameless and upright—totally undeserving of what happened to him (Job 1:1-4).

Stripped of everything.  All his wealth.  All his wonderful children.

 

 

Some of the recent hurricane victims know the magnitude of such horror. Home and all contents, gone.  Family members, gone.  I can’t even imagine their emotional pain and heartache.

And what was Job’s reaction to his tragedy?

If you had asked me that question a couple of years ago, I would have answered:  Job was incredibly accepting; he didn’t even blame God (1:22).

But there’s more:

“He fell to the ground in worship” (v. 20b).

 

 

WHAT?!

How can a person possibly worship at a time like that, when his whole world has collapsed around him?

All Job had left was his foundation—a foundation of faith in God.

And worship was his expression of that faith, declaring God’s worth to him—in spite of horrific calamity.  For Job, God was enough.

From Job we learn that true worship is not reliant upon circumstances.  In fact, a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) is surely very precious in God’s view.

 

 

Second, true worship is not reliant upon emotions.  We don’t have to be filled with joy in order to worship.  We can worship God with our tears, expressing our trust in spite of the pain.

Job couldn’t rely on answers that would give meaning for his suffering.  God gave him none.  What Job did rely upon was God’s character:

  • “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast” (9:4a).
  • “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (9:10).
  • “If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!  And if it is a matter of justice who will summon him?”  (9:19).
  • “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (10:12).

 

 

  • “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his (12:13).
  • “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest” (21:22)?

In the end, knowing God was more important to Job than knowing answers.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I shake my head in wonder as people of faith such as Job neither blame you nor give up on you in the face of calamity.  Instead, they rely upon you all the more tenaciously.  They worship, affirming that you are still their sovereign, loving God; they testify of your strength and peace. 

Thank you for being a God who comes alongside us with your wisdom and grace, especially when we’re hurting.  Thank you for powerful examples to follow such as Job.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.)

 

Revised and reblogged from June 17, 2013.

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If you’re looking for spectacular views of fall foliage this year, do not come to southwest Ohio where we live. It would appear the wetter-than-normal weather of 2017 has contributed to early, lackluster color and quickly dropping leaves.

By contrast, last year offered an autumn extravaganza:

 

(Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum,

Cincinnati, Ohio)

 

Just what causes the rich jewel tones of color in the fall?  I recently relearned the answer from one of my granddaughter’s picture books (!).

In early fall, due to fewer hours of sunlight, cooling temperatures, and less rain (usually), the leaves no longer receive sufficient light and water. They start to separate from the tree, the chlorophyll fades, and the green color begins to disappear.

Now the yellows and oranges, present in the leaves all along, become visible. Some leaves make new pigments from the extra sugar stored inside. These leaves turn red, rust, pink, and purple.

 

 

The variety of hues represents some of the most vibrant shades on the color wheel.

And each hue, you may recall, has been assigned a meaning.

Red symbolizes power and strength;

Yellow, energy and intellect.

Orange represents joy and happiness;

Green, stability and safety.

Purple signifies royalty and power;

Pink, love and friendship (1).

M-m-m. Every one of those attributes describes our God.

As we ooh and aah over the wonder of autumn (even if only in small patches!), what if we allow each color to inspire worship?

For example, the brilliant red of the sugar maples can be a reminder he is tireless, never even needing a nap (Psalm 121:4).

 

 

He can accomplish anything–like create human beings and a complex, life-sustaining planet for them–because he is the one and only Lord, strong and mighty (Psalm 147:5).

Creation also demonstrates his superior intellectual abilities (Romans 11:33-36) since mysteries still abound in the universe–even after centuries of human inquiry. Gaze at the luminous golden ginkgo trees and affirm: our God knows all and never makes an unwise decision.

 

 

A fiery orange serviceberry tree is sure to make you smile with delight. Turn that smile toward your Heavenly Father, the source of all joy (Romans 14:17).

 

 

Evergreens provide a continual reminder of our ever-present refuge in him (Psalm 46:1) and his enduring faithfulness to us (Psalm 100:5).

 

 

Sweet gum trees don robes of purple in autumn. This color of royalty since ancient times can remind us of our Ancient of Days, the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7).

 

 

Last, the pink leaves of the burning bush can signify the loving friendship he offers (John 15:15), “practical and down-to-earth, yet saturated with heavenly glory” (2).

 

 

Whether or not we live in an area where these splendorous colors are on display, we can remember: God’s glory surrounds us just as autumn blaze can envelope a region.

 

After all, the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3, emphasis added).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Lord God, that every facet of your character is on display in your creation, giving us opportunity to “see” you. Even the changing leaves of fall call attention to your magnificent attributes. But even more wonderful—you manifest these qualities in our circumstances and in our hearts. Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, and always working wonders?  We praise you, O Lord, now and forever!

Romans 1:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 145:1  

 

Notes:

  1. colorwheelpro.com
  2. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 260.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.

 

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“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”

–Bill Keane

(creator of the comic, Family Circus)

 

During my years as a fourth grade teacher, I used this Bill Keane quote to review with the kids the basic three tenses of the English language. The humor added a bit of fun; the truth of Keane’s statement added a bit of wisdom.

Even nine- and ten-year olds can benefit from the realization that:

Yesterday is past. We’re better off if we choose not to hold on to the hurts and disappointments of days gone by.

Tomorrow is a mystery; ‘best not to dwell on worrisome possibilities that most likely won’t happen.

Today is a gift from the ultimate Gift-Giver, God himself, and there is much to savor and appreciate.

 

 

The problem is, I forget. Those moments when I’ve marveled, laughed, or sighed in contentment are lost by day’s end in the blur of busy-ness.

So over the last few months I’ve been recording small blessings worthy of celebration—at least one per day, sometimes more.

For example:

  • While I was exercising, a bustling little wren nodded and bobbed from her log-perch outside the window. She cheered me on.

 

 

  • A glowing pink sunrise in the east greeted a crescent pearl moon to the west. Beauty shouting praise into the silence of dawn.

 

 

  • Our four-year old granddaughter, Elena, found an instant friend at the playground. The two girls gleefully ran back and forth several times across a field, holding hands. They perfectly illustrated Celeste Palermo’s observation, “Children are high-energy guides from Heavenly Tours, Inc.” (1).

 

 

  • A woodpecker extravaganza occurred in the backyard when three different species congregated at the same time—a flicker, a red-bellied, and a hairy.

 

(Hard to tell this guy is a red-bellied woodpecker.)

 

  • I spent a quiet hour reading on the deck one evening, reveling in heavenly weather and a bowl of sublime strawberries. All senses were happily engaged—mind and spirit, too.

 

 

You’ll notice there’s nothing particularly exciting on this list. No exotic locations, no momentous adventures.

Just affirmations that right now is good and quiet moments afford their own distinctive treasures.

It’s been great fun collecting these small snippets of surprise, exhilaration, and solace each day. I’m learning to carve the extraordinary out of ordinary and find the holy among the humdrum.

The Gift-Giver himself resides among his gifts. And as I savor selected moments of my days, I taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for this moment, right here, right now, that includes happy trees outside my window, clapping their hands in praise to you. I thank you for the soft cloak of quiet around me, and the nest of memories surrounding my desk, woven from things old, bestowed, and beloved. “The earth is full of your loving kindness, O God”—even in my little office.

(Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 33:5b)

 

What moment from today will you savor?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Note 

  1. Celeste Palermo, The Coffee Mom’s Devotional: A Rich Blend of 30 Brief and Inspiring Devotions, (Revell, 2009), 154.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.co; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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“The hills are clothed with gladness,” King David proclaimed (Psalm 65:12b).

 

I couldn’t agree more. Even on the little hillside of our backyard viewed from my perch on the deck, I see much gladness. And observations of the gladness lead to worship.

 

Sun glints through the trees creating a spotlight effect on some branches and turning backlit leaves into glowing emeralds. Down by the creek bed foliage is draped in deep, green-black shadow, beckoning wildlife into its cool environs.

 

 

Thank you, Father, for the comfort and cheer of dappled light.

 

 

Air currents waft through the trees causing branches to bob and sway. The long, compound leaves of the black walnut tree swing back and forth like bells joyfully ringing on the breeze. And flowers appear to wave jauntily to their Maker.

 

 

Thank you, Father, for the restoration and delight of a cool breeze.

 

Two cardinals take turns serenading amidst the lacy greenery overhead. Robins, house wrens, chickadees, and more add accompaniment; the cicadas provide percussion.

 

 

The hills have certainly burst into song this day (Isaiah 55:12)!

 

Thank you, Father, for the pleasure and solace of bird song.

 

Two small squirrels play tag, spiraling rapidly around a tree five times. When they stop, I wonder, Are they tired or dizzy? And how do they run so fast, even clambering upside down without losing their grip?

 

(Woosh!)

 

Sometimes they jump impossible distances from tree to tree and I catch my breath. Their safety seems in jeopardy, yet the little fellows never fall. God has specially equipped them to handle such feats—just one of a million examples of how he has engineered every plant and animal for survival.

 

 

(“In his hand is the life of every creature.–Job 12:10a)

 

Thank you, Father, for the evidence of your wisdom, power, and influence—even among our backyard squirrels.

 

I’m remembering other animals that have visited less frequently. In the fall, a chubby woodchuck lumbers in the underbrush, fueling up for hibernation. Every now and then we spot a chipmunk or rabbit; sometimes even deer emerge out of the thicket, regal and quiet, to feed and rest in the yard. Our resident raccoon occasionally perches in his hole high up in the hawthorn tree, checking on the weather.

 

 

On summer nights we enjoy a festival of fireflies. Our trees appear decorated for Christmas with hundreds of twinkling lights. Frogs in the creek bed offer the sound track.

 

Thank you, Father, for the fascinating variety of creatures with which you’ve populated the world. “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24).

 

 

The sky is full of God’s creatures, too. A small gaggle of Canada geese announce their coming with raucous honking. They’re heading for the pond behind duplexes down the street. Long necks stretch forward; large wings gracefully ply the air.

 

Also skyward, among great banks of cumulus clouds glides a puffy hippo!

 

And sometimes a red-tailed hawk glides in circles above the trees. Landing requires several battings of wings with feathers fanned out and talons extended forward–a lesson in aerodynamics and precision.

 

 

“The heavens declare your glory; the skies proclaim your works” (Psalm 19:1), O God, night and day.

 

Thank you, Father, that all things speak of you—flora and fauna, rock and water, earth and sky.

 

This deck has become a holy, hallowed place where the glory of your creation excites wonder.

 

And woven throughout your works is the mystical and supernatural—to inspire, expand, and enrich our souls for more of you.

 

To that end I seek for my own life the same wisdom, power, and influence I see in your creation. Then I too may reflect your glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

________________________________________

 

 

What has compelled you to worship from your deck, porch, or beach towel? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.guideposts.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

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