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Posts Tagged ‘praise’

Lenten heartOn Ash Wednesday, at Restore Church we had an opportunity for some self-directed worship through meditations on light, clay, the communion elements, and promises (written on cards). I had the honor of collecting these cards and finally, today, read through them. They are filled with hope and sacrifice, renewal and confession. I share them here, all anonymous, as the gifts they offered to God in Jesus’ name.

Letting Go of . . .

  • Two meals a day (promised by several people)
  • French Fries (promised by several people)
  • Sugary drinks & sodas (promised by several people)
  • The Past
  • Spending
  • Coffee (promised by several people)
  •  Cell phone at night (promised by several people)
  • Repetitive thoughts of loneliness
  • Social networking (promised by many people)
  • Red meat
  • Food by fasting each day until 6 pm
  • Sin
  • Gossiping
  • Amount of time on the phone (promised by several people)
  • One meal a day (promised by several people)
  • Candy and/or sweets and/or refined sugar (promised by many people)
  • Negative comments
  • TV after 7 pm
  • Complaining
  • Judging others
  • Snacks
  • Soda (promised by several people)
  • Angry thoughts at work
  • Food by fasting lunch
  • Resentments and unforgiveness
  • Food by fasting one day a week
  • Internet surfing
  • Words with Friends
  • Movies
  • Future Plans
  • Guilt & shame & jealousy
  • Smoking

Do any these resonate with you? Some of these items are not inherently bad but simply eat up our time and energy. Another set are actually bad for our bodies, the sacred physical home of Christ’s Spirit, and yet some are besetting feelings and sins that are constantly begging for free reign in our hearts. Letting go of some of these things are a sacrifice while others are a prayer. Many of these promises are difficult to measure, to assess our growth or success in this venture, in this time of journey with Christ. These less tangible things could be spoken each day, or many times a day, for they are really a prayer.

Gods promiseThe second list encompasses the adds, what we promise to add to our lives as we let go of the other things. We will fill our days and time instead with . . .

  • Read the Bible (promised by many)
  • Praise God
  • Pray (promised by more than half)
  • Reflect
  • Give thanks
  • Pray morning, noon, and night
  • Serve intentionally (promised by several)
  • Pray for my family (promised by several)
  • Write devotionally each day
  • Talk intensely with God
  • Study the Bible
  • Listen in prayer (5 am)
  • Read a Devotion each day
  • Draw closer to God and/or spend time alone with God
  • Wake up early to read, pray etc.
  • Praying every Monday
  • Say one positive thing to a different person each day
  • Submerge myself in the word
  • Save money

Are there any surprises here? We know what to do. We know how to draw closer to God. So, we can either berate ourselves for what we have not done before, or simply, choose: Today, I begin. No rules. Just promise.

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There was an old game show called “You Don’t Say” in which contestants would try to figure out the missing word and thereby get points. At the end of the show, the M.C. would invite people to come back to watch the next show because, “It’s not what you say that counts, but what you don’t say.” We sometimes carry this idea along in life.

stillnessOur God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be.
You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks. [II Thessalonians 1:1b-3, The Message]

We live in a culture of having and so often, despite our best efforts, it’s hard not to want what others have. We are constantly inundated with images of nice cars (mine’s 10 years old and counting), perfect figures with amazing clothes (I’m on a perpetual diet and shop thrift stores), and high-powered tech toys (I just got my first personal laptop from a pawn shop). How do we keep our eyes from roving the commercials and ads (not just on TV, but everywhere). Their message is clear, what you have is not enough.

Not true.

contentmentThe truth, the real truth underneath all the trappings of pretend, is that each person has all the raw materials for the life God intended. We have been given a variety of gifts and abilities, families and friends, circumstances and challenges, and they all add up to a life designed to building up the human spirit within. If we agree to walk it. The path is not easy, but if we take our own way, the road only becomes longer, more complex, and yes, even more difficult.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, and “I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. As I am in God, God is in me, and you are in me and we are in God [paraphrase of John 17:21].

Within God understanding, it doesn’t matter whether I am as good looking as another woman or as rich or smart or talented. It doesn’t matter if I am a Queen or a housemaid, a teacher or a writer, an athlete or a businesswoman. I am walking out a life within and hopefully, using everything I’ve learned along the way, I can be united with Christ.

And for this reason, I can give thanks for everything. Even this.

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stars of the soulAnd there is the language of thanksgiving, for prayer is what Washington calls “an attempt to count the stars of our souls.” The words “Thank you…Thank you…Thank you” are a way of calling to mind, one after another, the gifts of God, the stars of the soul.– James M. Washington, Conversations with God.

In my Lent 2015 Devotional, I found this excerpt from Washington’s book and I have been touched by the phrase, “stars of the soul” ever since. Naturally, I’ve ordered the book from the library. I must know more.

On the heels of praying continually, I am also directed to give thanks in all circumstances [I Thessalonians 5:16-21]. Can I imagine those prayers, those utterances of thanksgiving to be as plenteous as the stars of heaven. Or have I been stingy in that regard, focusing on that single morning star or worse, allowing the lights of the city to outshine the stars. Those artificial lights are the cares of this world.

Lord forgive me. For my life is rich with grace of You.

Throughout scripture, humans ask for God to “hear” our cries and to answer our prayers and to heal us. But I see now I have been like one of the nine lepers who were healed along the way but kept on going the way they started;  only one, the tenth, turned around and ran back to Jesus to give thanks [Luke 17:11-19].

I am running to you tonight. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am alive and although this day is nearly done, a new day is rising and anything can happen. Thank you.

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altarWhat is God’s altar today? Is it merely in a church, festooned in appropriate colors for the season of the year, adorned with extras like flowers and candles? What if there is no altar in the church; where then? Rarely do we find the traditional church table in contemporary churches. If anything, it’s the drum set that holds center stage, or perhaps the podium where God’s messenger/priest/pastor/hip guy in a Hawaiian shirt or Toms shoes speaks.

Let me come to God’s altar—let me come to God, my joy, my delight—then I will give you thanks with the lyre, God, my God!  [Psalm 43:4, CEB]

Back in the day of King David when this Psalm (song) was written, there were several altars in the Temple, one holier than the next, until the most sacred altar of all was reached, the one in the “Holy of Holies,” but it was totally inaccessible to the common person, and was only visited on high holy days by a single priest. Is this altar of God we should be imagining?

And by the by, when was the last time you heard a lyre? Here’s a lovely example of a re-created lyre of that time period:

It’s assumed that many of the psalms were songs accompanied by the lyre and that King David, as a young man was quite proficient at playing one. It has a very gentle and soothing sound, but not perhaps, what we might imagine as we stand before this “altar of God.”

Perhaps the real issue is not where or what the altar is or how we come or what instrument we’re playing; instead, perhaps it’s intent. If God is present at the altar, like a meeting place, a touch point, so that each and every time, we came to such an altar, we would meet God, wouldn’t we want to go there often? How much do you want to experience God, to give thanks, to admire and express wonder, to receive love and grace and acceptance.

Oh, God, let me come.

No, God does not need to give permission to attend to this altar. I must simply will it; desire it. Or are my days too full? Even this one. For my morning was whisked away from me and it is already past Vespers as they say, evening for sure. I did not attend the altar.

Are you still unsure where this altar lies? It is within, inside the silence, inside the joy, inside the ever-playing music of God.

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I amSo many times I have read about the great “I AM,” the God of all Gods, the one God who cannot really be named or explained. When Moses asked who should I tell the Israelites in Egypt sent me to them, and he was told:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord [I AM], the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ [Exodus 3:14-15]

But in the notes, this I AM phrase has alternative meaning: I will be what I will be. And decidedly, in English at least, this brings up a whole new array of possibilities.

I am still working on a full engagement with the present. This idea crosses over into a variety of disciplines both Eastern and Western. It is accepting the now, being full in the now, and living it without remorse for what is past or fear of the future.

But now I am challenged to consider as well this more open-ended God who is and will be. Not that I didn’t know that of course, but I find it intriguing to ponder God, perhaps as a point within me for the now and then stretching outward my center self in an ever growing, ever widening funnel of “God Self.” God is now but also God is potential, forever.

God is telling Moses, “No worries: here now and here tomorrow.” All of time is God’s now.

How can we not be grateful for the invitation to be in relationship with this God of today and forever? There are not enough songs to sing, poems to recite, or words to say that can capture the wonder of God in me and in the universe, a personal God and a cosmic One. This is the reason we glorify God. This is the reason we praise. This is the reason we surrender.

Who sends you?

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Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens. . . .  [Psalm 8:1, NIV]
When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation—
    on the moon, stars, and all You have made,
I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals—
    sons and daughters of men—
    specks of dust floating about the cosmos. [Psalm 8:2-4, The Voice]

nature-vs-manTheoretically, I want to be more aware of God’s work in nature, the things that human has yet to destroy: but what’s left? There is still the blue sky (on a good day), and the stars (if I can steal away from city lights), and the clouds (thankfully, untouched). There are still streams and trees and butterflies, and for a while yet, honey bees. There are birds who still build nests and foxes who hunt in the night, although they are forced to adapt, the birds building nests in our front porch lamp and the foxes scavenging in back yards.

When my mind runs along these tracks, I become sad. That’s not the point here. Perhaps it’s why I crave the ocean so much. Despite the harm we’ve done, she still roars and claims what is hers. She is a presence. She still seems bigger than the harm.

I don’t get out enough. I don’t do the nature thing. I don’t choose it.

Certainly, we live in a lovely town, with a promenade skirting the mouth of the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay kissing its waters. But, even there, the railroad tracks and bridges and barges claim the sound space, my eyes must isolate.

How can I laud and praise the wonder of God’s earth when I am living so thoroughly in a human designed one? Is this what God intended for us?

I need to get out more.

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I am not poor. Of course, I’m working on it, what with spiraling debt and fruitless planning. But, in the greater scheme of things and the world at large, I am quite flush and comfortable. So, who am I speak about the promises of God for the poor?

Psalm 69:30, 32
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. . . . The poor will see and be glad — you who seek God, may your hearts live!

And yet, promises and precedents do exist.

In the time of Christ, the poor saw Him first and recognized God in Him. The poor followed. The poor believed. The poor sustained the faith. And the rich worried.

But God’s empowerment is not a change of social status. In all the acts that Jesus did for the poor, he never made anyone richer. He healed, he fed, he taught. He gave hope where no hope had been. He gave strength to the weak. He spoke to the wealth within each and every human being. He loved.

One of the essentials to surviving and perhaps overcoming one’s circumstances is trusting God’s providence in the midst of difficulty. It’s living through this day because the next day is in God’s hands and anything can happen. This is the significance of praise: it’s trust.

Back in 1970, Merlin R. Carothers wrote a book, From Prison to Praise, that is still in print today and continues to change lives. A lot of us tried his formula but it always felt a little forced to me. I felt like I had to manipulate my circumstances to find something I could praise God for in the midst of them, like having a flat tire on the freeway, but “praise God,” a policeman stopped. And so forth. I’m not saying this way of looking for the silver lining in life events doesn’t have value, it does, but today, I’m thinking differently.

Instead, as in the case of the poor whose circumstances may not be dramatically changed from day to day, it’s trusting God in the midst of the worst. God is sovereign whether I can see it, feel it, or touch it.

Perhaps it’s too hard to say, I praise God in this nightmare, then say instead, “I trust God.” They are the same.

It’s not up to me to figure out which part of this crisis can be turned for good or how God will manifest nor do I need to be a Pollyanna . Instead, it is the simplicity of “I am here, God is here, I am here with God” [Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality: a life with God in 12 simple words].

If it is hard for me to maintain a place of trust in God, how much more for those in crisis every day?

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