Don’t Focus On the Overwhelm

Life has been a bit overwhelming for me these last few weeks. It seems that in every area of my life, pressure is building. I feel like the State of California waiting for the big one. Eventually, it’s all going to fall apart. But as I sat in silence this morning, thinking about the recent events and wondering how I was going to manage it all, a verse I memorized so long ago that it was the King James Version, came to mind. 

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee. 

Isaiah 26:3 KJV

I wasn’t casting about looking for a Bible verse to calm me. I was just sitting quietly before God doing my best to focus on something other than the overwhelm. Handing my concerns to Him rather than give in to the rising panic. And there it was. I said it out loud just because I really did need to hear it! I felt strengthened, so I said it again.

Then I paraphrased it to hold it close all day…“I will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Me.” My personal message this morning from God. That seed planted in my heart long ago was springing to life. It was bridging the gap in my composure, which threatened to grow wider.

Slowly, I began to feel solid, less likely to slide out of control and into self-pity or panic. I renewed my point of focus.

I’ve been playing around with a podcast idea and feel compelled to encourage with God’s Word. Today was just one more reminder for me of why knowing the Word is such a critical component of living life well.

Read more reasons for committing God’s Word to memory here.

When you find yourself in hot water, and let’s face it, we all do, what we have put into our lives is what will pour out. To finish well, I need to live lives Steeped in the Word of God.

What If You Don’t Have to Try Harder?

Are you a doer, a striver, or maybe a perfectionist? Always trying harder to do good things in the hope that you will be found loveable or worthy or any other tag you are trying to attach to your reputation? If you are, I have some great news!

I’m learning so many things from the book of Galatians. I’m planning to share what I’ve learned in a Bible Study, but that’s not quite ready. If you would like to join me in getting ready I’ve recorded all of Galatians in a podcast format. In my minds-eye, I’m picturing a scroll that has just arrived. We eagerly unroll it and I stand up before our group to read the news that Paul has sent. When you hear it out loud, all at once it is a good way to put everything into context.

I made the recording for me really, so I could listen in the car and get my brain wrapped around what Paul has to share. Then I realized, I might not be the only one who could benefit from hearing it this way. If you would like to join me in tuning your ear to Paul’s letter then I’d invite you to use the link below. I think ultimately this will be available on whatever format you like to use for podcasting, but I’m told it takes a day or two for that to happen.

https://anchor.fm/LorettaGjeltema/episodes/Galatians-from-the-New-Living-Translation-e33v0v
https://anchor.fm/LorettaGjeltema/episodes/Galatians-from-the-New-Living-Translation-e33v0v/a-aa0hvs

In the Meantime

Here’s a favorite verse for us to lean into this week.

Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Galatians 3:3 (NLT)

Good News: The path to living as a Christ-follower is not about trying harder. There is no list of secret rules. It’s really very simple, love others. Notice I did not say it was easy, but the Spirit promised us help.

Tell me, did you listen? Do you plan to? Drop me a note and let me know

Are You Tired? Ready To Lighten The Load?

Discipline, it’s not one of those magnetic words that the minute we hear it sticks, and we are determined to have it.  Yet, I believe this is the word that God has asked me to focus on in 2019. Unlike the first thoughts I had, I’ve come to understand it’s not a word that has been asked of me to wrestle my heart, mind, and soul into submission. God isn’t like that. He may pursue us relentlessly, but he does not drag us down and twist our arm behind our backs until we say “uncle”. He does not send us to our room and tell us we can not come out until we are ready to do what it is he has asked of us. God makes requests, gives us space, and sometimes consequences. Deeply desiring that we will, in the end, choose him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus had chosen his 12 apostles at this point and was beginning to teach them in the manner of the Jewish rabbi, or teacher. He would lead them to become disciples. He spent time with them. He talked with them about their thoughts, and he pulled examples from the daily experiences they shared.

The Rationale

Why have I chosen discipline? Because my soul needs rest! I read a lovely little book by Michelle DeRusha entitled “5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices For Your Soul”* In her chapter entitled The Spiritual Practice of Walking the Dog, yes, you read that correctly, she says this:

“The restless agitation we feel simmering just under the surface hints that we are missing something important, that our souls are yearning for more, but we don’t allow ourselves the silence and space to figure out what that something is.”

And if I’m honest, I do have that restless agitation. I realize that I want to spend this year going deeper with God. While my temptation is always to go wider, how much more can I read, how much more can I learn, always more! I am ready to do things differently. I want to spend more time just being with God. Because really that is what the spiritual disciplines are about.

My temptation is to seek distraction over quiet. To choose doing over being.

My Challenge

And so, I challenge myself to:

  • Sit in silence with God each day. Not try to do anything for Him, or say anything. Just be with him.
  • Listen while I sit. I want to hear all God has to say to me. Not just grab a quick answer to a question I’ve asked then whisper thanks and jump up and be on my way.
  • Experience the practices that Jesus observed while on this earth. These include prayer, fasting, study of the scriptures, and time with friends.

For me, this is the essence of the spiritual disciplines. To learn from Jesus’ example. Jesus tells me that his lessons provide rest for our souls. This mind that never seems to shut down could use a bit of rest. And so I begin. I spend time with Jesus, I watch him, and I listen in prayer and silence. And I respond to those gentle lessons. And contrary to our modern interpretation of discipline as in pushing and punishing ourselves into submission, I’m instead going to choose discipleship. And if you look closely, you will see that there is a common root.

What about you?

Are you ready for some quiet time at Jesus’ feet? If so, will you think of joining me on this quest for personal change? For growing deeper without striving harder? I just love that my Jesus says tie yourself to me (that’s what a yoke is, it ties two together.) And when you do, I’m going to do the heavy lifting. You will not find that what I ask of you is difficult. As a matter of fact, you will find rest.

*DeRusha, Michelle. 5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices for Your Soul. Michelle DeRusha. Kindle Edition. It’s a free book, of just 24 pages. So if you read on kindle then consider grabbing it here.

Facing The Future With An Assignment

So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. Luke 24:53 (NLT)

He’s been here, on the earth and is gone for now, from sight anyway. So here we are just about to step into a new year in the same place as the disciples who stood on that mountain. We have an assignment to accomplish while we wait for his return.

We can stand here and celebrate the coming as a child for a few days, but we need to be obedient. That’s where the joy is found.

During the time between his resurrection and his ascension, Jesus had opened the minds of his disciples to see clearly what the prophecies were telling us. Yes, I will come to you, but then, I will ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of my father. He had told them this before, but now they got it! (Luke 24:27)

He issued his assignment- Tell people about me. He promised power from the Holy Spirit, and he spoke a blessing over him.

How different this day than the day they thought they lost him to death! Before they had felt abandoned, let down, and had no idea what they were going to do with the lives that looked nothing like they had a few short years before. Now, they knew he was alive and powerful even though he would no longer walk beside them physically. The emotion now was joy, rather than grief. No one felt abandoned. They had work to do as they eagerly waited for the return of their Lord. The mission was intact. And they knew their friend was sitting in a place of great power.

Friends, we have work to do too. Many of us are taking stock of what we have accomplished in the past year and harboring hopes of a productive year ahead. I’ve been praying and studying and seeking God’s guidance for my year ahead too.

I know without a doubt my assignment is to teach his word. This may take many forms for me in the coming year. I will continue to write this blog; I will study with my Tuesday ladies and offer my leadership. And, I will step into the assignment I feel God is giving me to write a Bible study. I’d appreciate your prayers for my efforts, and I find I need accountability so could you just drop me a note occasionally and ask me how I’m progressing!

Let’s Apply This Week’s Verse

  • We are all called to tell others about Jesus, but that will look a bit different for each of us. Ask God to help you get clear on what your personal version of the assignment looks like.
  • As you face your assignment, who do you rely upon?
  • How do you stay tuned into the adjustments which may happen to your specific version of the assignment?
  • When you think about the assignment you’ve been given are you filled with great joy? If not, what do you think you might do to find joy in your assignment?

Father, as we step into another year help us gain real clarity on our own personal version of the assignment. I love how you personalize everything. I know you have given us each a role that we are perfectly equipped to tackle as we work through your spirit. Help me to remember when I am feeling overwhelmed that I’m probably trying to go it alone, rather than looking to your spirit for guidance and help. Help me to remember my assignment is meant to glorify you, not to glorify me.

One More Thing

Can you believe it’s been a year? Fifty-two weeks of a verse a week!

If you would be willing, I’d really benefit from your feedback as I step into my own assignment.  Just click on the link and it will open in a new tab. 

I will not be posting a blog next weekend. We will be spending time with our family. I appreciate that you have invested time reading what I’ve written and you can encourage me by joining in to look further into God’s word with me in the next year. I am planning to blog at least weekly as I have throughout the last year. I will continue to post a verse a week for you to memorize or just ponder and I will do my best to carry out the assignment God has given me.

Merry Christmas!

 

When Your Life Makes No Sense

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7 (NLT)

What were you thinking? It’s a question my mother liked to ask when in her eyes I’d done something that made no sense. 

What was Jesus thinking when he came as a baby, lived life as an ordinary man then stepped into his public ministry calling all men to him?

Off The Deep End

His brothers thought he’d gone off the deep end. And the Pharisees, who recognized that he was indeed a powerful teacher, saw him hanging out with tax collectors and other undesirables. A career ending move that made no sense to them, and they did not hesitate to point it out, because after all, they were the wise leaders in this part of the world.

All Jesus was thinking is that the sinners needed saving. He didn’t have far to look to find a sinner. He was surrounded by them everywhere he went. Some of the folks, like the tax collectors, knew there was sin in their lives and welcomed a man who promised a way out of the trap of seeking after money, which came with its own set of problems.

Blinded By The Rules

But the Pharisee’s couldn’t see it. They were the rule followers. They thought they had it made on the pathway to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus knew otherwise, and even though the religious leaders saw themselves as the educated men of the day, he tried to break the news using a story, a way to sneak up on the truth and face it head-on.

Maybe you see yourself as one of the ninety-nine. It’s tempting, isn’t it? Well, let me tell you before we were one of the ninety-nine we were the one who had strayed. We’ve all been there, we all struggle daily not to go there again. This message might have been couched in terms of one who needed saving, but the message here really is we are all that one!

And that’s what he was thinking, looking forward to the joy of wrapping each ‘one’ in his arms as the ninety-nine look on and welcoming them to his home, because all along, each ‘one’ already had his heart. This was the joy set before him.

And that’s what he was thinking, looking forward to the joy of wrapping each ‘one’ in his arms. #steepedintheword #averseaweek #memorizetheword Click To Tweet

Looking Further at This Week’s Verse

  • Think back on life before you were the one who prompted the rejoicing when you repented. How did life feel?
  • Do you think remembering the ‘before’ can help us relate to those who have not yet joined the pen of sheep who recognized their shepherd?
  • How does it feel to know that you are the ‘one’ the one he loved, the one he saved, the one he wants to spend forever with?
  • How can you share your saving shepherd with the ninety-nine this season?
  • Are you willing to be a part of saving the one even when what you have to do makes no sense to those around you?

Father, thank you for seeing me and deeming me worth saving. I don’t want to sit smugly by and look down at those who still need you. I want to wade into humanity just like you did, making friends with the folks who still don’t quite get what you did for them. I want to share you rather than point fingers and criticize the lives of those who know no better. 

I know it’s tempting to think that everyone in our media-saturated world knows you, but really so few do. Many only know the God of rules that are impossible to follow, much like those Pharisees. Fewer know the God who did the unthinkable, risk the approval of the brothers he surely loved and just waded into messy lives with the hope of plucking those lives from the fire.  Give me opportunities to just wade into the messy, and give me the courage to go without hesitation. I know that today I’m numbered with the ninety-nine and I rejoice in that. But, don’t ever let me forget where I came from.

How Do I Recognize God’s Voice?

As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” Luke 3:22

My husband has a tradition. When one of his daughters or his grandchildren celebrate a birthday, he calls and sings happy birthday to them over the phone. I had been wondering if, as the grandchildren got a bit older, they thought this was silly.

My granddaughter stopped that thought cold. John (my husband) had gotten her voice mail when he called and because she was working was not sure if he would catch her in person, so he recorded his song on her voice mail. She called back later to talk to him and said, I’m going to keep that recording so when you are gone, I can always play it on my birthday. I’m a bit envious really because I’ve lost family members whos voice I’d love to have recorded but do not. However, I imagine that if they were to call me on the phone today, even these many years later, I would recognize the voice of those I loved.

John writes in Revelation  4:1 that the voice he heard was a voice he’d heard before. God spoke similar words at both Jesus baptism and at the transfiguration on the mountain, which John saw with his own eyes, and heard the words with his own ears.  It’s not clear to me if it was the voice of the father or the voice of the Lord Jesus, but I have to tell you, I love that the voice of God is familiar.

I have never heard God’s voice audibly. But he speaks to me as I read his word and to my inner being through the spirit. I am learning his voice. I want to be like John; I want the voice to be familiar.

Credibility

The Old Testament prophets testified that in the last days, God would pour out his spirit on his people. The apostle John tells that John the Baptist was told that he would know the Messiah because he would be the one upon whom that the spirit settles, the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit rather than just water. (John 1: 32-34) God didn’t just send a dove, he proudly claimed his son. There you have it, undeniable credibility!

As Christ-followers that same spirit has settled on us. Not only are we also proudly claimed, I believe the spirit aids us in recognizing God’s voice. First, I think the spirit is that voice I hear in my inner being (John 14:26). And, I believe the spirit aids me in understanding what God is saying through his written word (Hebrews 4:12). This is one of the ways the word can be living and active by my way of thinking.

Source of Joy

God loves his son, and I’m sure he brought joy in many ways, but being an obedient servant who came to walk this earth experiencing the human experience and offering himself as a sacrifice, that was a source of Joy. Why can I say that? Because God loves us. Jesus is proof of that. The obedience of Jesus set us free. No cheap freedom for us, but a costly one. When you pay that kind of price, it’s valuable. Our freedom is a source of joy for God. I get giddy just thinking about all that love poured out.

I take joy in knowing I can hear and recognize God’s voice. I long for the day when I hear him say to me, face to face, well done beloved daughter, you bring me great joy!

I take joy in knowing I can hear and recognize God’s voice. I long for the day when I hear him say to me, face to face, well done beloved daughter, you bring me great joy! #steepedintheword #memorizetheword #averseaweek Click To Tweet

Looking Further at This Week’s Verse

  • How do you hear God’s voice?
  • Are there times you wonder if it’s God you are hearing? How do you think you can break through that doubt?
  • Do you think time spent in God’s word helps us to recognize his voice? In what ways?

Father, Thank you for making it so clear that Jesus was your son. And thank you that even though we have not met him face to face we share with him the gift of your spirit.

I pray that the spirit will become a beacon in our lives pointing us to you so that we can point others in the right direction too. Help us to learn to listen closely as we hear the spirit speak in our innermost selves and as we read and speak your powerful words.

Help us live lives that express the joy we feel at being set free from sin’s grasp. And keep us faithful until the day we meet you face to face and recognize your joyful voice of welcome.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all verses quoted here are from the New Living Translation.

Memories That Deliver Life-Changing Joy

It’s an old memory and a reminder of how things have changed. But it also reminds me that the unexpected can be life-changing.

Almost from the first day of the first grade, my public school teacher began to work with us as we memorized the Christmas story from the book of Luke, King James Version.  Yes, I said public school. In December, the first-grade students would line up in the gym standing on the bleachers. Wearing white smocks with big red bows, we would recite together for our parents and pretty much everyone in our little town. This was quite a big event every year when the entire grade school repeated the same performance our parents might have offered up on a cold winter night.

And do you know, I can still recite the Christmas story from the book of Luke, although as I have done a quick refresh of my memory through the years, I’ve now memorized it in the NIV version.  That’s a tip for you: now and then, you may need to review what you have memorized just to refresh the details. And, if one version isn’t doing it for you, choose one that works.

But the real reason I can remember this passage of verses is that it's a story. A tale of true events, long ago, that I love hearing and which still makes my heart joyful! #steepedintheword #averseaweek #memorizetheword Click To Tweet

But the real reason I can remember this passage of verses is that it’s a story. A tale of true events, long ago, that I love hearing and which still makes my heart joyful!

Just as my heart set out on a journey to enjoy and memorize God’s word when I was a six year old, I want to set my heart this season on memorizing verses of joy! Not every day in life is sunny, but joy transcends happiness and having a few verses tucked away for times of need is a good strategy for me.

I’ve selected four verses, moments of joy from the life of Christ, to end my year. I hope you will join me, but let me just say this before I offer up the verses…the real goal is not memorizing the words from the scripture. The real goal is to steep your heart and mind in the words of truth. To soak up the truth into your life. Even if you can never repeat a verse word for word, if you have the gist of it planted deep in your memory and your life, you have been successful!

Week 49

They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:10

Week 50

As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” Luke 3:22

Week 51

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7

Week 52

So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. Luke 24:52

Looking Further at This Week’s Verse

They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.

They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:10

This is the delivery of the birth announcement to a group of shepherds on the hillside. Yes, there was joy, but there was also trepidation. Something supernatural was afoot, and that makes us uncomfortable. Discomfort was a thread running through the whole story.

Mary, you are going to bear a child out of wedlock. It had to be a shock, it had to come with a few moments of nerves, but ultimately, she trusted God and rejoiced.

Joseph, your intended is going to bear a child, it’s not your’s but is from God. We see a record of Joseph’s shock and awkward position, but he chose to enter this story that is filled with sorrow but ultimately leads us to the only lasting joy.

I was reading this morning of the current interest in the supernatural. It seems to me this is the perfect story for those who seek answers in the supernatural. Yes, it’s implausible. Yes, it may come with a few feelings of discomfort. That should not surprise us; we are walking on holy ground! God has entered the sorrow of the human story, and the intended result is pure joy!

I’d invite you to flip over to Luke. Read through that Christmas story to kick off this season of advent. It’s an old story, but it’s truth. It’s an unlikely but joyful entry of our Savior into the world. I suggest you just start reading at Luke Chapter 2.

Let’s Think This Through

  • When you consider the Christmas story in light of the supernatural events that are unfolding, describe how the aspect of miracles is significant.
  • Do you tend to avoid conversations with those who are not Christ-followers about the supernatural? What do you think might happen if we embraced this aspect of the Christmas story as a point of discussion?
  • When has God surprised you with joy? What was your first reaction?
  • What do you make of the paradox that one called “the man of sorrows” is the source of great joy?

Father, it is good tidings of joy that I focus on as I consider what you have done for me. All around me I see people focused on Christmas. Provide opportunities for me to proudly share your Christmas miracle. I don’t want to shy away from parts of your story that are supernatural because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. I want to meet the hunger for something more in empty lives with the miracle of this story. But I also want to reinforce that I don’t see it just as a story, I see it as a truth. Thank you for the miraculous gift of Jesus.

Can you believe this is the final month of 2018? Whether you have been following along through the whole year or joined us part way in, I hope you will jump on the joy bandwagon for a few weeks. Let’s celebrate a joy that will last forever, a joy that has nothing to do with the circumstances in which we find ourselves on any given day. And everything to do with a picture that’s bigger and grander and more miraculous than any other. A story, just like Mary, Joseph, and a group of shepherds on a hill one night,  we have been personally invited to join.

Always Thankful for This Victory!

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:57 (NLT)

I live in a house that’s over 20 years old. It had the original dishwasher until last week. When I washed the first load in the new one, I was amazed at how much cleaner things appeared to be. Not that we were eating off dried on food, but I had a few brighter cleaner storage containers, the stain was gone. And just in time as I had 12 around my table last Thursday enjoying a feast.

That’s how it is with us. We can think we are living a pretty good life, but there’s sin there. Except…Christ died..for me, for you, for all of us!

It’s life-changing, and it’s not that complicated. Christ died so that we can be cleansed of sin. He wiped away the past, and he gave us his Holy Spirit to help us avoid sin in the present. Of course, we don’t always avoid it. We live in a pretty dark world. We are lured in. Sometimes, we are just selfish and want our own way. We are spotless when we belong to Christ because Christ has already declared victory. It’s a done deal.

It took me a while to get this last part through my head. Of course, I should be sad when I sin, but I’m still forgiven. I don’t have to rely on my ability to live my life sinless even with the help of the Spirit. I have been set free. It’s not about my ability or my obedience; it’s about the gift of life offered by my savior.

How could I not be thankful for this gift?

Let’s Think This Through

How do you lean into the Holy Spirit when temptation threatens you to sin?

Do you beat yourself up when you sin or do you rest in the victory Christ has won over sin?

Here’s a challenge….take 10 minutes each day. Focus only on the amazing attributes of God and the gift of salvation. Tell God what you are thinking. He’d love to hear this from you.

Father, of all the things I’m thankful for, salvation is my number one! It is beyond amazing that you asked your Son to die for me. It’s almost unbelievable that he did. If I didn’t know how much you love me, I could never believe it.

I thank you for your Spirit that lives in me and helps me choose the right way over sin. I’m sorry that too often I depend on me rather than your Spirit. Thank you for forgiving me anyway.

It’s always so easy to be thankful in November when we are surrounded by reminders, but help us make thankfulness a daily habit.

 

Thanksgiving – Fine-tuning the Focus

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 (NLT)

Last night I joined several hundred other individuals from my church to praise God and celebrate what he has been doing in our lives as we completed a 10 week study where we learned to see ourselves as we were before we came to Christ and then take a look at how God is rewriting our story as we learn to follow him. The praise was wonderful. But we were primarily praising God for what he’s done.  Me-centered worship.

Psalm 100 is a daily call to acknowledge and praise God in God-centered worship. This is a psalm about being thankful for who God is. A call to come before God and acknowledge who he is and offer him praise because he is God. We embrace his “godness” all that power and love and mercy that we did nothing to earn and honestly, can never do enough to earn. An invitation to come before God, in the place he dwells and just say I see who you are, I see who I am, and I am compelled to thank you and praise you. Not for stuff, not for blessings, but because of who you are. The only response I can possibly offer when I see who God is, just pure praise and thanksgiving.

This invitation into His presence is an honor. The place God dwells today is in his people, so we just have to cry out our praise, we need to offer this praise to God, it’s how we are created. This is not just an assignment for the fourth Thursday in November; it’s a daily call to go before God and offer thanks and praise. It’s what we were built to do my friend. It is a call to refocus regularly. To see God for God and to see me as I really am.

As we prepare to celebrate the day we call Thanksgiving with feasting and family time, I plan to enjoy every moment. There is nothing wrong with spending a day with beloved family! And I adore being surrounded by mine. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a feast. But I must remember that Thanksgiving is a daily need that I have to go before God, acknowledge who he is and offer my praise and thanksgiving.

Let’s Think This Through

What benefits does thankfulness bring into our lives?

Do you look forward to celebrating God with praise and thanksgiving?

Think about the joy you find as you spend time enjoying your family on Thanksgiving or any other day of celebration. Do you see any parallels with the time you spend before God?

Father, I come before you and just bow low in acknowledgment of who you are. All your love, your grace, your creative power and your willingness to pour it out onto the human race. I am humbled, and I know that I can’t even wrap this human brain around all you are.

I offer my praise because you are worthy of it. I offer my love because you have shown me how to love. And I want to stay in your presence for a few moments and soak in who you are.

I ask your forgiveness for my failure to spend more time praising you for who you are. I know I tend to focus on what you have done for me and how you love me. While this is good, teach me to also spend time every day just seeing you for who you truly are. Teach me to worship with a God-centered focus.

 

When Pain Threatens to Overwhelm

I had coffee with a friend this week. She’s been walking through emotions which threaten to overwhelm. We spoke of hard things. I pulled the curtain back on some ugly bits of my life to share the faithfulness of God. We laughed because she said since I appeared to have my act together that I must have made all the right choices and suffered little pain as a result of it. In truth, some the pain in my life was not a result of my choices, but plenty of it was. I have made bad choices and experienced the consequences. Along the way, I’ve learned much from pain no matter what caused it. At that moment I thanked God for the pain that gave my story credibility.

Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 69:30

Praise and thanksgiving are the after. Let’s look at the before, David cried out “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.” Psalm 69:1

Have you been there? So have I. Despite his pain, David pulls himself together and says I’m going to praise and honor you God because I have trust in what you are going to do.

It’s easy to cry out in the middle of our pain…if you take it away, then I will praise you, fix it and I will thank you. What is harder is to praise and be thankful while we are still up to our neck in the floodwaters of the pain. But if you read this entire psalm in context, David had walked with God long enough to know that he was faithful despite the feelings of panic threatening to overwhelm.

It is hard to trust in the middle of the struggle when there is no end in sight, but it is possible.  Paul reminds us in Romans that the pain produces results. God’s got a plan even in pain he allows into our lives.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

And this hope will not lead to disappointment; I lean on that!

Let’s Think This Through

What does your life look like right now? Is it a time of overwhelm or a time when you have overcome?

How has the pain of your past strengthened you?

What is your story of God’s faithfulness in times of pain?

Would you consider unveiling some of the ugly in your life to walk alongside a hurting friend?

Father, I thank you for your faithfulness in times when I felt like David, drowning in my pain, that you proved your love and faithfulness to me. Like Paul, I have seen that trials do develop endurance and character as well as reinforce my faith. Thank you for the opportunity to redeem a bit of my pain by sharing it with a hurting friend. Help me remember the next time the pain threatens to overwhelm that you are a loving and faithful Father.

All verses quoted here are from the New Living version of the Bible.