Time to Praise

The new year is here, have you and God been talking about the year ahead? Has God put anything specific or different on your heart for this new year and decade? I’m excited to have another year here to talk with you about God and see where our journey together takes us. I want to start the year off by sharing a passage from the Psalms:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Psalm 103:1-2

I can’t guarantee what the year ahead will be, I can’t promise that it will be a good year, I can’t promise that this year will have better news in it than last year did, I can’t promise better income, I can’t promise better health, I can’t promise much unfortunately, as much as I would like to. What I can promise is that if you spend more time this year in praising God, you’ll have greater peace about whatever does happen.  Taking time to praise and worship God even when (especially when) you’re feeling down can lift you up because it helps to recenter and refocus your heart and mind.

I start with those statements because during this time of year we do think about what we want or our resolutions or our year ahead (if we only take one time of year to truly think about it, that’s better than never thinking about it). But we shouldn’t be praising God or doing anything that has to do with God for what we’re going to get out of it, but rather to honor, worship, love, celebrate and remember God. We can praise God for all of the things He’s done for us, all the blessings He’s shared with the world, and for just being the caring, loving, omnipresent God that He is.

What will you praise God for today?

Christmas Carol Classics: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.”

This song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (you can listen to it here), is from before the 16th century and was first published in 1760.  It was referenced in Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ when the caroler was outside his office at the beginning of the story and Scrooge got very upset with him.  It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the upper class people by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season.

I love that this song has really withstood the test of time.  We may not really use all the words that are in the song in our day-to-day speaking, but the message of hope within certainly has lasted the centuries.  It’s a reminder of the message of the baby born some 2000 years earlier, that He came to save us, not just to be born.  It’s a reminder of the event that we remember and celebrate each year some 4 months later, that of His death on the cross and following resurrection.  It’s also a call to raise our voices too and join in rejoicing and praising God for sending Jesus to us and for sending all the blessings our way that He does.

A Patriotic Celebration

I’m in a patriotic mood with July 4th, Independence Day, being today in the US.  So it’s got me thinking about the nation we live in, the other nations around the world, the nation of Israel and nations of Jesus’ day, and about the nation that is yet to come when we get to Heaven/when Christ comes back.  With the exception of the nation yet to come, within every nation there are times of unrest and change. I don’t know about you but I’ve been following the news about the UK vote to leave the EU last month and you can’t help but hear about the presidential election we’re gearing up for in November here in the US.  Both are of interest to me because they indicate that people have a desire for something different, that they’re telling the world with their votes that they aren’t happy with how things currently are.  Maybe the changes that follow won’t be great or what people are really expecting, but not only is it important for us to stand up to what we think is wrong, if we can do something about improving our lives and the lives of others, we should!

What does Independence Day mean to you?  Does it remind you of the history lessons you heard years ago about the founding of the nation? Does it make you say prayers of thanksgiving for the brave people who chose to leave their homes and travel by boat to this new land?  Does it make you think about what the nation could become?  Does it make you think about and pray for the leaders that are in charge?  Are you flying a flag at your house, putting a poppy in your car or otherwise visibly displaying your patriotism?  We have this holiday for a reason: to remind us of where we’ve come from and to motivate us to make a better future.

What does Independence Day mean to us as people of faith?  It’s also a call to remember the spiritual leaders who have come before us and have made an impact on our lives.  Throughout the Bible God reminds us to celebrate Him, the good things He does for us, the great world He created for us, and each other and the good things we do.  He didn’t create us to be alone, nor to ignore each other.  Instead we’re to work together, live together, partner together and celebrate together.  What will you celebrate today?

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”  1 Chronicles 16:8

A Summer of Celebration

Today is the summer solstice.  It’s a day of celebrating the summer ahead, reflecting on the seasons past and celebrating being alive and having the sun to warm and feed us. Many groups of people take time on days like the solstice to stop and reflect or have a practice or something they say to honor the transition, and it got me thinking about taking time to thank and honor God.  So today I thought I would share a few verses to inspire and encourage you to recognize God’s presence in your day to day life and in larger moments like the solstice.

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

“Sing praises to God and to his name!  Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord—rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”  Psalm 68:4-5

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.”  Psalm 19:1-2

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!  Your glory is higher than the heavens…When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”  Psalm 8:1, 3-4

“Sing out your thanks to the Lord; sing praises to our God with a harp.  He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.  He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry.  He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Psalm 147:7-11

I encourage you to look and see where God is working this summer.  Don’t give up hope because it seems like all you see is sorrow and hate.  And if you can’t see God working, maybe He’s waiting for you to do something to share some joy and sunshine with someone.

Celebrating Life

As Christians we know we’re blessed to have the strong foundation of Christ to trust and promise of great things in Heaven for the faithful, but that doesn’t make us immune to what is going on in the world.  In fact, if we were immune to what went on in the world no one would ever trust us or connect with us enough for us to share the Good News with them, just like things would be completely different if Jesus didn’t come to earth as a human baby some 2000 years ago.  So the fact is that each and every one of us has to deal with what goes on in the world.

What surprised me this week as I thought about these things was a passage from Psalm 103: “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.”  Psalm 103:2-3

As much as we may party and enjoy spending time with others in this day and age, I think we forget sometimes to really celebrate the big and little things God sends our way.  We’re so rushed, so taken over by the bad stuff, so distracted by all that is going on, that all we manage to do some (most?) days is send God some “thank you’s” and read a few verses from the Bible.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t call that living and thriving, which is exactly what I want to do.

This week I encourage you to do exactly that: celebrate.  But not just in little “thank you’s” and soft prayers, have some big celebrations and real rejoicing moments too.  Spend time each day celebrating with God.  Put on some worship music, grab a pad and paper, or just sit and be quiet and appreciate life as it finds you.  You’ll be more balanced, less stressed and be open to receiving the blessings God wants to send your way.

Spiritual Hope from 2011

Last year was a great year!  I enjoyed all that we learned together and really appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you each week.  In 2011 we talked about 1 topic each month, always considering our core topic of hope.  Let’s review what we learned (click the link if you want to read the whole blog post):

Habakkuk 2:3 “This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.”

3 little take-aways for you today from Ephesians 4:24: 1-You are created to be like God. 2-God is proud of you 3-Every action you take, word you speak and promise you make should be helping you transform ever more into the individual God know you can be.

Jeremiah 6:16.  It reads “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.””

Sometimes we need to just trust that the road is supposed to be this crooked.

Romans 5:3 says: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to endure.”

What can we do to be more passionate spiritually? Do spiritual practices you enjoy, remove bad distractions, get creative, make more moments spiritual, make time for your spiritual life, change your attitude.

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.”

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? …You are the light of the world — like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket!” Matthew 5:13-15

I think God wants you to be dedicated to Him: to living the purpose He’s given you, to trying to live right and asking for forgiveness when you don’t, to sharing His good news with others, and to spending a little time each day with Him.

At the end of the day I don’t think that what really matters is the error.  It’s that we seek or offer forgiveness.  It’s not about doing right all the time, it’s about knowing that we’re human, accepting our mistakes and living lives actively forgiving each other.

Psalm 103:2 “My soul, praise the Lord and never forget how kind he is!”

Regardless of what you believe, we can all learn from the message of the story: love is a gift that lasts.

What did you learn in 2011?

Days of Praise

This week in my reading of the Psalms I read Psalm 119.  What an interesting psalm!  One verse that stood out to me was verse 164: “I will praise you seven times a day…”  I try to express my gratitude and thanks frequently throughout the day about things that do or don’t happen, people I meet, places I get to go, animals and plants I get to see and for the little pleasures and treasures that pop up.  But that isn’t the habit of most people.  So let’s look at a bunch of opportunities you could have in your day to express your thanks and praise to God.

-when you wake up try saying thank you instead of “oh no” or groaning

-when you get in the shower

-with that first sip of coffee or tea in the morning

-before/during/after meals, snacks, or on-the-go bites

-when you send the kids off to school or your partner off to work

-when you get a good parking space

-when you get mail or a package

-when you find something special and delicious at the food store

-when your pet (or a pet) greets you

-when you have a great idea

-when your children or partner has a success in their life

-when you pay your bills

-when you go to your job or career

-when you get a red or green light that you needed

-when you get that work opportunity

-when you cross something off your to-do list

-when your partner or kids come home at night

-when you see or talk to friends and family

-when you get to get back in bed at night

Some of these events may take a mental shift and a serious effort for you to begin appreciating them in your life, events that you may not have taken the time to appreciate before.  But by remembering to praise God for things that happen in your day to day life, not only will you become more present in your day, you’ll begin to enjoy your day more too!

I’d love for you to share the times throughout the day that you often praise God below.