As much as we anticipate vacations, what is it the draws us back home after a vacation to the comfort of our own beds? Is it the familiar? Is it the routine that we know so well? Is it because it’s a place we know where we can take off our masks and truly be ourselves? Maybe, maybe not, depending on your home life. Maybe it’s because everything is predictable or it’s where we have our roots and we are established or among family and friends.
I’ve been single my entire life and I’ve moved more times than I care to think about. I was born and raised in Iowa; moved to Texas (Dallas) for several months when I was 21; then back to Iowa very briefly before joining the military which took me to South Carolina for basic training, Virginia for AIT, and South Korea where I was stationed (as a 71N20 for those of you who know the meaning); back to Iowa briefly when I got out, then on to North Carolina where my fiancé was stationed in the military (we met in South Korea but that relationship ended back in the states); briefly back to Iowa again and then on to Virginia for a year at college on the G.I. Bill; back to Iowa after that year for several more years where I worked and also completed (while working) both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Iowa State University, then on to Colorado for several months looking for a job that never materialized (did temp work while I was looking); then back to Iowa for a few months before receiving a doctoral fellowship that led me to Florida where I have lived and worked (in several cities) since 1992 except for that infamous year I spent in Houston, Texas, which, of course, led me back to Florida again due to financial constraints caused by unemployment (both of which, unfortuately, are still very much a part of my life). WHEW!
To me, “home” is not necessarily a physical place—by that I mean the feeling of being “at home.” For me, home really is “where the heart is” as the expression goes. In every apartment (or barracks as was the case in the military) I’ve lived in I’ve made it my “home”–a sanctuary and place of refuge from the frenetic pace of today’s world. It’s a place where I can relax, unwind, do or not do whatever I want to do or not do without the added frustration of being judged according to the outside world. It’s a place where prying eyes and listening ears are put to rest, at least while I’m at home. That, to me, is truly “home,” and it can take place wherever one lives, providing that technology hasn’t invaded our lives too much.
Today is the day of Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday (the resurrection of Jesus). The day of Pentecost is considered to be the birth of the Church (see Acts 2). On the Jewish calendar it is called Shavuot and is a time of thanksgiving and celebration to worship Adonai (a Hebrew title of reverence for God). One of the several things they celebrate during Shavuot is a time of remembering Ruth and Boaz, a kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 1-4). It is a story about “coming home.”
Here’s a brief background to the story of Ruth. Due to a famine in the land a man from Bethlehem and his wife, Naomi, and two sons went to live in Moab. The man died and Naomi was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women (Orpah and Ruth). After living in Moab about ten years both of the sons died leaving Naomi without a husband or sons. After hearing that the Lord had come to the aid of His people in Bethlehem by providing food for them, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem and she instructed her two daughters-in-law to stay there in Moab where their families lived.
Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to Naomi saying to her, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will become my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-18). At that, Naomi stopped urging Ruth to stay behind in Moab.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem “the whole town was stirred because of them” (vs. 19). Naomi had returned empty after the death of her husband and sons, and was bitter, asking that they call her “Mara,” which means bitter, stating that “the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (vv. 20-21). Ruth, her daughter-in-law from Moab, returned with her to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning.
Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side named Boaz who was a wealthy landowner. Ruth asked Naomi if she could go to the barley fields to pick up leftover grain by following behind anyone who she might find favor from in order to provide food for them, and Naomi gave her approval. As it happened, Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, and Ruth found favor in the eyes of Boaz as he had heard all that she had done for her mother-in-law, Naomi, and how she had left her homeland and her mother and father and came to live there among strangers because of her love for Naomi. He told Ruth to glean only in his field as she would be protected.
Boaz showed kindness to Ruth which, of course, extended to Naomi as Ruth was able to glean plenty of barley for both of them to eat. As Boaz was a close relative of Naomi, she stated to Ruth that he was “one of our kinsman-redeemers” (2:20). A “kinsman-redeemer” is “a male relative who, according to various laws found in the Pentateuch (the first five books in the Old Testament), had the privilege or responsibility to act for a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need of vindication” (source here).
You can read the rest of the story in Ruth 3-4, but suffice to it say that Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. The marriage of Boaz to Ruth and the birth of Obed brought Naomi out of her bitterness. In fact, the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi, “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (4:14-15). Their son, Obed, was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who became the greatest King of Israel and a direct descendant of Jesus Christ.
So, you may be asking what this story has to do with “coming home.” Good question. Naomi came back to her home in Bethlehem in bitterness with empty hands but with a loving daughter-in-law. She knew no other place to go even though it brought great bitterness for her to go back home. Ruth went back home with Naomi to a completely foreign land and most likely never saw her own mother or father or her homeland again, yet she embraced her mother-in-law and her new life wholeheartedly. Indeed, Naomi’s people had become her people and Naomi’s God her God (1:16), and God richly blessed them both through Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer, Boaz.
Ruth didn’t see “home” as a physical place, but as the place where her heart was–with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Ruth “came home” with Naomi and ended up finding and marrying a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. And all three were greatly blessed.
In spiritual terms, “coming home” is really like finding redemption. And redemption is found in the greatest “kinsman-redeemer” of all, Jesus Christ. “Coming home” to Jesus is the best “coming home” there is.
Indeed, home is where the heart is,
and as St. Augustine said so very long ago,
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless
until it finds its rest
YouTube Video: “Love Came For Me” written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg:
Photo credit here
Where do you get your “power” from? Money can give you a sense of power here on earth (as well as adulation and fame), but God’s power in you (to serve others and not yourself) will give you eternal rewards. Which is more important to you, the temporary (this world) or eternity? It’s your choice, but the consequences are staggering if you make the wrong one. (See reblogged post below.) ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
Our society is fascinated with power. In fact, many people crave it to such a degree that they would do anything to gain more of it. More than likely, these are the very people who have never tapped into the infinite power that has been given to us through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
During the “dot com” boom of the late 90s, many people became overnight millionaires. Their newfound wealth gave them an incredible sense of power, that is, until the stock market crash that followed soon thereafter. Those who have bought into this type of “instant power” have never experienced true power—the power of God. While many may appear to have power from the world’s perspective, they really are weak from God’s viewpoint. This is because they lack God’s power in their lives.
There is a great difference between real power and the mirage of…
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Serendipity . . . what a great word! We don’t hear it very often nowadays. Do you know what it means? According to Dictionary.com it means “the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.” Making fortunate discoveries by accident . . . . Has that ever happened to you? It’s happened to me. But first, before I get into that, here’s a little history on the word “serendipity” that I found in a devotion I read in “Day by Day” by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Expecting the Unexpected.”
Expecting the Unexpected
It had been a long time since Horace Walpole smiled. Too long. Life for him had become as drab as the weather in dreary old England. Then on a grim winter day in 1754, while reading a Persian fairy tale, his smile returned. He wrote his longtime friend, Horace Mann, telling him of the “thrilling approach to life” he had discovered from the folk tale.
The ancient tale told of three princes from the island of Ceylon who set out on a pursuit of great treasures. They never found that for which they searched, but en route they were continually surprised by delights they had never anticipated. While looking for one thing, they found another.
The original name of Ceylon was Serendip, which explains the title of this story—“The Three Princes of Serendip.” From that, Walpole coined the wonderful word “serendipity.” And from then on, his most significant and valued experiences were those that happened to him while he was least expecting them.
Serendipity occurs when something beautiful breaks into the monotonous and the mundane. A serendipitous life is marked by “surprisability” and spontaneity. When we lose our capacity for either, we settle into life’s ruts. We expect little and we’re seldom disappointed.
Though I have walked with God for several decades, I must confess I still find much about Him incomprehensible and mysterious. But this much I know: He delights in surprising us. He dots our pilgrimage from earth to heaven with amazing serendipities.
Isaiah’s words make me smile every time I read them because I have seen their truth come to pass time and again. God still stands behind this promise:
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
~Isaiah 43:19 (NIV 1984)
Your situation may be as hot and barren as a desert or as forlorn and meaningless as a wasteland. You may be tempted to think, “There’s no way!” when someone suggests things could change. All I ask is that you read that verse one more time and be on the lookout. God may very well be planning a serendipity in your life.
God has been doing “a new thing” in drab deserts
and wintery wastelands for centuries.
In the fairy tale that Walpole read, those three princes originally set out to find great treasures (in our day that might equate to hoping to win millions in the lottery), yet while they were looking for “great treasures,” they found delights they never anticipated. However, they never did find what they were originally looking for—great treasures. And apparently it didn’t matter because the “delightful surprises” they found along the way were more than they ever anticipated. This fairy tale so transformed Walpole that “from then on, his most significant and valued experiences were those that happened to him while he was least expecting them.”
For the past three plus years I have been searching for my equivalent of “great treasures” which is employment and an income to live on—and it was almost a desperate search in the beginning because I had little funds available to me and I knew I couldn’t survive for long without an income or a miraculous intervention. My original quest was very specific—to find that job—and anything else came in a distant second.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you already know a lot about what has transpired during these past three plus years. While searching for one thing (a job, which I still have yet to find), I have been continually surprised by delights I had never anticipated, just like the princes in the fairy tale. And while the journey hasn’t been easy or even very pleasant at times, the things I’ve seen and the lessons I’ve learned are worth far more than any job I might have found during those years. Much like Walpole, I have found a “thrilling approach to life” and never want to return to my former way of living in “the monotonous and the mundane.”
What I have found is that life is about so much more than just “earning a living” and “paying the bills.” I have gone from living in the gray world of “struggling to get by” to a totally unanticipated life of living is a world that constantly amazes me when I look beyond my own challenges and keep my eyes and heart focused on God. To say that He has taken care of me and met all of my needs during this time is, well, an understatement at the very least. What He has done is open my eyes and my heart in unimaginable and “delightful” ways that I never could have comprehended just three years ago. And, during this time of extraordinarily tight finances I have never at any time been without clothes to wear, food to eat, or a roof over my head.
I’d have to write a book to tell you of all the ways God has met my needs and opened my eyes and perspective on what this life is really all about. Even these many blog posts I’ve already written don’t begin to touch on all of the things I have learned and experienced from the hand of God. There are simply no words in the English language that can adequately express how I feel or how astoundingly amazing these discoveries have been to me. It’s just like Dr. Swindoll wrote in this devotional above when he stated, “But this much I know: He (God) delights in surprising us. He dots our pilgrimage from earth to heaven with amazing serendipities.”
Yes, He does . . . if we keep our eyes and hearts open to Him and not get bogged down in the “necessities” of life or our frantic search for “more” to the point where our lives become drab, monotonous, mundane, and, well, lifeless—just going through the motions of living from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed each night.
Sometimes God has to do drastic things to get our attention much like what happened to me when I lost my job and my only source of income over three years ago. But no matter how bad it looks to us at the beginning of any trial, if we remain open, humble, and pliable to what He is showing us even in the very worst of times, He will show Himself to be faithful to us in the most astoundingly amazing ways.
So, you may be asking at this point in time if I still need a job. Well, you know, I just don’t know anymore. God has done some amazing things for me over these past three years and He has met and continues to meet all of my needs, and all of that has been done without me finding another job. I think, from here on out, I’ll leave my future totally in His hands and let Him decide as I just don’t want to miss out on what He is doing in this world anymore. And, if you think about it, for those of us who are Christian, whether we are “employed” or not we are always employed by God to help those less fortunate, to be open to His leading, to tell others about Jesus, and to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6).
And . . . “God still stands behind His promises.”
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
~Isaiah 43:19 (NIV 1984)
YouTube Video: “Change the World” by Eric Clapton from “One More Car, One More Rider” CD (2001):
Photo credit here
It has been almost a year since I received my last unemployment check, and I have had no income since that time. And, I still don’t have any employment prospects that I can see on the horizon, even though I have never stopped applying for jobs or talking with people. It appears that most employers aren’t interested in people who have been unemployed long-term. And there are millions just like me living in the shadows of this once great nation. The United States of America is one of the most prosperous nations ever to be established on this earth, yet millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed and struggling financially in a world spiraling out of control from economic catastrophes that have hit in recent years.
So, when did we stop caring about and helping each other when times got tough? When did we start turning a blind eye to others less fortunate then ourselves? When did we start looking the other way as we drove by the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute in this country holding their signs on the street corner or sleeping under a cardboard box or in a tent city? When did we start judging them as if we had any idea what it was really like to walk in their shoes? When did we become so callous that we figured what happened to them could never happen to us or that they did something to deserve it? When did we become so arrogant?
I read a short devotion yesterday by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled “Enough Is Enough” and here is what he had to say:
Enough Is Enough
If there were one great message I could deliver to those who struggle with not having an abundance of this world’s goods, it would be this simple yet profound premise for happiness. Great wealth is not related to money! It is an attitude of satisfaction coupled with inner peace, plus a day-by-day, moment-by-moment walk with God [emphasis mine]. Sounds so right, so good, doesn’t it? In our world of more, more, more . . . push, push, push . . . grab, grab, grab, this counsel is long overdue. In a word, the secret is contentment.
Contentment is something we must learn. It isn’t a trait we’re born with. But the question is how?
First, it really helps us to quit striving for more if we read the eternal dimension into today’s situation. We entered life empty-handed; we leave it the same way.
Second, it also helps us model contentment if we’ll boil life down to its essentials and try to simplify our lifestyle: something to eat, something to wear, and a roof over our heads [emphasis mine]. Everything beyond that we’d do well to consider as extra.
It’s foolish to trust in riches for security and they bring no lasting satisfaction.
It is God alone who supplies us “with all things to enjoy”
which leads to contentment.
I Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV 1984): “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Commend them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
For the past several decades we have turned the spotlight on ourselves—how we could acquire “the good life”—not sparing any expense including broken families, failed relationships, corrupt business practices, or whatever would put more money in our own pockets. We fell in love with money and all it can buy (possessions, power, people). Greed replaced God in our lives. For many, many decades God has blessed this nation like none other and what have we done with those blessings? We’ve asked for more. More . . . never satisfied with what we have but always seeking after more. We run after other gods—money, status, power–you name it and we’ve run after it. We threw God out of our schools, our universities, out of the public square, out of our government, but worst of all, out of our own lives and our own hearts.
And our nation is reeling from the consequences of our own actions, our own selfish attitudes, our own seeking after the insatiable “more” that is never satisfied. Doesn’t matter where we fall on the socio-economic scale–the super rich want more, and the desperately poor need more. And we’ve totally forgotten how to take our eyes off of ourselves and help others. Oh, we may give money to charities (for a tax deduction, of course), or our old clothes and other old possessions we no longer need to Goodwill or Salvation Army or other charities–but what about our hearts and our attitudes towards the less fortunate? Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to do those things (I’ve done them myself), and, indeed, we help a lot of those less fortunate when we give, but mostly, we keep our hearts and our valued possessions to ourselves. If you think I’m being too harsh in my assessment, would you ever think to buy some brand new furniture or other new possessions and give them to someone in need or open your homes to those less fortunate? Most likely, no . . . we give them the stuff we’ve used up and no longer want and let the homeless find a homeless shelter. As James 1:26-27 states: “Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (MSG) [emphasis mine].
When will we, as a nation, wake up to what is truly going on here? Corruption is in our businesses and in our government, and that’s because it is in our hearts. We want more for ourselves at the expense of others. We’d be wise to study how the Roman Empire came to a rather abrupt end after existing for several hundred years. Here are a few of the reasons (source of this information is located here):
- Antagonism between the Senate and the Emperor
- Decline in morals
- Political corruption
- Fast expansion of the Empire (rapid growth in foreigners, some who hated the Romans)
- Constant wars and heavy military spending
- Barbarians gaining knowledge of Roman military tactics
- Failing economy
- Unemployment of the working classes
- The unemployed became bored which led to civil unrest and rioting in the streets
- Decline in ethics and values
- Slave labor
- Natural disasters
- Barbarian invasion (Rome had fierce foreign enemies)
Any of these reasons sound familiar? Will history repeat itself in the not-too-distant future here in America?
The answer to that question is up to us. And the question is this–are we willing to take our eyes off of ourselves; take the greed out of our own hearts, and truly care about this nation and each other once again? Are we willing to turn back to God or continue on as if He doesn’t matter or isn’t involved?
The choice is ours, and I’m not convinced that it isn’t too late already to turn things around; however, is it worth fighting for? I think so. Do you?
You decide . . . .
Photo credit here
I just spent a long weekend in Atlanta contemplating a new direction for my life (we’ll see–I contemplate a lot) and got back last night. I love road trips and for the past three years I haven’t really taken any (except to move back to Florida from Houston in September 2009) due to financial constraints from being unemployed and a set of very, very, VERY old tires on my car. Well, the tire issue was resolved when I got a flat a few weeks ago and decided it was time for a new set of tires regardless of the cost or the fact that I have had no income for the past year since my unemployment checks ran out in May 2011.
WOW!!! What a difference a new set of tires can make! I decided to break them in with this trip to Atlanta (a 7 1/2-hour drive one way from where I currently live). As I zipped on down (or rather, up) I-75 it was smooth sailing (nothing like mixing metaphors) all the way until I hit construction at the south end of Atlanta. Not to worry though as I was in no hurry and I was thrilled to be back in a big city again. As I wound through downtown Atlanta (on I-75) I could feel the energy of that city and it reminded me of when I drove to Houston in September 2008 to start that ill-fated job–but it was a good memory (not because of the ill-fated job but because of the vibrancy of the city of Houston). On that trip I zipped through the heart of downtown Houston during morning rush hour on the way to the apartment I had rented (sight unseen, by the way) to start my new, but rather short-lived life in Houston. Did I mention this was less than three weeks after Hurricane Ike hit Houston? My colleagues where I worked in Lakeland, FL, were shocked that I was still considering going there right after a major hurricane hit the city, but I’ve never been one to let anything get in the way of a great opportunity and I had already lived through five hurricanes including Hurricane Andrew during the years I have lived in Florida (since June 1992). And, at least I wasn’t actually in Houston at the time Ike hit!
Navigating rush hour traffic in downtown Houston at that time with about a zillion additional power/energy vehicles on the road along with regular rush hour traffic took a lot of time–about an hour and a half just to navigate from one side of town to the other and switching freeways in the middle of it. But zipping under, over, and through downtown Houston was still thrilling just to see all of the tall buildings (there’s some very cool architecture) and feel the energy there. I can’t remember a time when I was happier moving to a new city other than in June 1992 when I drove from Des Moines, IA, to Fort Lauderdale, FL, to start a one-year doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. . . .
There is something about really big cities that just thrills me to my soul and I can feel the energy pulse through me when I am in them. I feel more alive and less like I am stagnating, and while my creative juices follow me wherever I go, the energy of big cities seems to bring them out even more. Imagine what would happen if I ended up in a city the size of New York or L.A. I’d probably explode! Well, Houston is close as it is ranked #4 and Atlanta comes in at #40 of the top 50 biggest cities in the US according to Infoplease.com.
These past three days in Atlanta gave me a shot in the arm and a boost to my morale that I really needed. I don’t have a clue where it might lead but I know I’m tired of stagnating and waiting for my life to get off of hold. I can’t magically improve the economy and/or find a new job in the midst of it (and it appears the politicians in Washington D.C. can’t either although they are all still employed), but while I still have a few dollars left in my pocket and four new tires on my car, I might start taking a whole lot more weekend trips. And who knows, maybe I’ll find a job during one of them. After all, it’s a big world out there . . . .
Now at this point, if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know I come from a decidedly Christian perspective, but as you’ve probably noticed in this particular blog post, I haven’t mentioned anything that most people would categorize as particularly “Christian.” That’s because God is a whole lot bigger than what we, especially here in America, separate out as “Christian.” The whole topic of what people consider to be “secular” and “sacred” is not something I wish to tackle in a blog post (and I’ll leave it to others to discuss the dichotomy which I don’t happen to believe exists). In a conversation I had the other day with a “non-believing” friend (for lack of a better term), she stated that she didn’t know I was so “religious.” I had to keep from laughing as it goes to show just how much people separate out “God” stuff from the rest of what they think life is all about.
Suffice it to say, God created everything, even the people who designed and built all of these great cities and freeway systems. God is not some kill-joy out there in the universe trying to think up ways to keep us distant from Him or hating Him (no, it’s people who think up ways to keep us distant from God or hating Him). If it wasn’t for God, we (and this planet) would not exist. Period. Therefore, there is absolutely no separation between secular and sacred whether you believe in God or not. God doesn’t exist is a box of our own making. And, He isn’t the least bit limited by our own thinking. We are . . . .
And that’s about as “religious” as I’m going to get in this post, folks. As my old friend from bygone years would say . . . .
“You think about that . . . .”
YouTube Video: “Rockin’ Down the Highway” by the Doobie Brothers
I couldn’t have said it better and can’t agree more (see reblogged post below)!!! Praise changes everything–your attitude towards God (if it needs adjusting), towards others (and it usually needs adjusting) and towards yourself (by getting the focus OFF of yourself). And, it changes your life, regardless of your circumstances. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
When a person does a job well, we find ourselves wanting to praise him. But what about our praise to the Lord for who He is and what He has done for us? Charles Spurgeon writes:
The Lord always deserves to be praised for what He is in Himself, for His works of creation and providence, for His goodness towards His creatures, and especially for the transcendent act of redemption.
Praise is a constant reminder of God’s unconditional love, His all-knowing wisdom, and His unchanging power. The more realistic we are about our weaknesses and faults, the more we comprehend God’s graciousness toward us.
Spurgeon goes on to say, “It is always beneficial to praise the Lord; it cheers the day and brightens the night; it lightens toil and softens sorrow.”
Praise reminds of us of who God is, and who we really are—sinful human beings, redeemed and saved solely…
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I don’t know about you, but I know in my own life it has taken a very long time to understand the real power in praising God continually. It changes everything . . . especially our attitude about all the things that happen to us, both good and bad. It takes the focus off of us and our circumstances, and puts it back on God, where it belongs now and throughout eternity. (See reblogged post below.) ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
What is praise? It is adoration, thanksgiving, appreciation, and worship of our Lord and Savior. Praise flows from a relationship of love and devotion from us to the Lord. Praise brings us closer to Him. It changes us and helps us grow in our faith. Praise reminds us of who God is. A life filled with praise places us in a position to receive God’s blessings.
C.S. Lewis said:
Only in acts of worship and praise can a person learn to believe in the goodness and the greatness of God. God wants us to praise Him not because He needs or craves in any sense our flattery, but because He knows that praise creates joy and thankfulness.
Praise is not something that we do for God. Nor is it something that we do in order to get God’s approval so that He will grant our desires. When we praise God,
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Joy of the Redeemed
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
YouTube Video: “Pour Your Spirit Out” –Shannon Wexelberg (on the “Faithful God” CD):
Photo credit here
I simply can’t pass up the opportunity to share a short devotion I read this morning titled “A Cheerful Heart” by Dr. Charles Swindoll in his devotional book, “Day by Day”(Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 123). The opening sentence could be taken from the pages of today’s newspaper:
“Earthquakes! Prison riots! Economic pressures! Divorce! No jobs! Drugs! Disease! Death! Pretty serious scene, isn’t it? Yet that is the emotional environment in which we live. No wonder someone has dubbed this the ‘aspirin age.’ Small wonder more of us are not throwing in the towel.
“In spite of these bleak surrounding–or perhaps because of–I firmly believe we need a good dose of Solomon’s counsel. Listen to David’s wisest son: ‘A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken . . . . All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast . . . . A joyful heart is good medicine [the Hebrew says, ’causes good healing’], but a broken spirit dries up the bones’ (Prov. 15:13, 15; 17:22).
“Have you begun to shrivel into a bitter, impatient, critical Christian? The Lord tells us that the solution is simple: ‘A joyful heart’ is what we need . . . and if ever we needed it, it is now.
“By a sense of humor I mean that necessary ingredient of wit: those humorous, enjoyable, and delightful expressions or thoughts that lift our spirits and lighten our day. When we lose our ability to laugh–I mean really laugh–life’s oppressive assaults confine us to the dark dungeon of defeat.
“Personally, I think a healthy sense of humor is determined by at least four abilities:
**The ability to laugh at our own mistakes.
**The ability to accept justified criticism–and get over it!
**The ability to interject (or at least enjoy) wholesome humor when surrounded by a tense, heated situation.
**The ability to control those statements that would be unfit–even though they may be funny.
“James M. Gray and William Houghton were two great, godly men of the Word. Dr. Houghton writers of an occasion when he and Dr. Gray were praying together. Dr. Gray, though getting up in years, was still interested in being an effective witness and expositor. He concluded his prayer by saying: ‘And, Lord, keep me cheerful. Keep me from becoming a cranky, old man!'”
Let’s ask our understanding Father to remind us frequently of the necessity of a
cheerful spirit and to give us an appreciation for laughter.
The scripture reading included with this devotion is Ecclesiastes 3:1-13–a passage that is widely known by Christians and non-Christians alike:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.”
In the heated situations that come up in everyday life, so often we become so embroiled that we fail to see beyond the criticism, the harsh words, that back-stabbing actions of others–and even our own mistakes–and we become harsh and unbending–indeed, unyielding–to anything outside of our control. Fact is, we control very little in this life especially when we are up against the actions and attitudes of others. The only real thing we control is our attitude towards those persons and situations. Granted, not all criticisms thrown at us are justified (and there are plenty of people out there who are playing by their own rules), but when they are warranted we need to step back and consider the criticism, and then, as Dr. Swindoll has stated above, “get over it!”
If you find yourself becoming bitter, impatient, and critical regardless of the circumstances that come your way, it’s time for a heart checkup. A broken spirit really does dry up the bones, and the only one it really damages is you. When I think of the seven months I spent in the job I was fired from over three years ago, I could have let the actions and attitudes of others affect my reaction to them in a negative way, but I refused to do that. Instead, I tried to be as helpful to others as possible regardless of their motives, and I treated everyone, even those who treated me poorly (which were, fortunately, few), with kindness, right up through my last day at that job. And when I drove out of the parking lot for the last time, I knew in my heart I had done the best I could do in a bad situation, and even in spite of the fact that it has left me unemployed for over three years now.
There’s a quote that goes something like this: “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle tangled Christmas tree lights,” and it’s also true about the very bad situations we find ourselves in in life. Nobody escapes trials and sometimes really severe and long lasting trials. However, we can control how we react to those trials–and maintaining a cheerful heart has a lot to do with keeping your reaction positive.
And if you are a Christian, remember Who you belong to . . . it’s not yourself. Every trial and temptation we face is a test. As James 1:2-8 clearly states: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
As Dr. Swindoll stated above, “When we lose our ability to laugh–I mean really laugh–life’s oppressive assaults confine us to the dark dungeon of defeat.” So where do you want to live–in a dark dungeon of defeat or with a joyful heart knowing that God is sovereign and has everything under His control–even the really bad stuff–and He knows what He is doing.
So, cheer up! “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” (Prov 15:13 MSG). God is still in control. That fact alone should put a smile on your face even during the darkest of days and the longest of trials.
And I’m saying that to remind myself, too!
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It’s truly amazing how praise can lift us up out of pit of despair or loneliness or frustration or fear. It puts us back into the right perspective on life–that it’s not about us and it’s all about Him. It takes the focus off of our problems and puts it back on “The Greatest Problem Solver of All Times.” Praise puts a spring in our step and a song in our hearts to the One who paid it all–for us. So let’s do it today, and everyday, for the rest of our lives until we finally get to see Him face-to-face. Yes!!! (See reblogged post below.) ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
God’s glory is revealed in the praises of His people. When we lift our voices of praise to God, He is honored, and we are blessed.
However, God’s blessings are not always material in nature. The richest people are those who have developed an intimate relationship with the Savior through personal prayer and praise.
Praise was a hallmark of David’s life. As a young man, he learned to worship God through songs of praise that expressed his deep devotion to the Lord. While his brothers may have enjoyed the comforts of home, David was confined to tending to the family’s sheep. But it was there, in a lonely pasture, that David wrote his greatest songs of praise to the Lord.
King David wrote:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make…
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