Walking Partner

I might just be the queen of allowing my feelings to get in the way of facts. I have a habit and a history of seeing my life’s circumstances in light of my emotions. However, a lifestyle in which my life’s circumstances are instead viewed by applying the Light of the World’s illumination is a goal I am praying about and pursuing.

Taking stock of what is happening through God’s lens instead of a “how I am feeling today” lens is valuable. And it is necessary. It helps us to confidently react based on the way God helps us see our situation, instead of allowing our emotions to dictate our response.

If I wake up each day and make a conscious decision to spend that day walking in God’s presence, I am much more likely to desire to live in a way that pleases God. One way that will be exhibited is that I will be more likely to react to challenges in a better manner. I will run my reactions through a filter of, “What is a Christlike approach to handling this situation?” rather than an “I handled that impulsively…how do I go back and fix what I did wrong?” filter.

When I think of walking with someone, I realize it is a conscious decision that takes action on my part. I have a walking partner. Years ago, we used to walk more often, but now because of busy lives, our walks have become a once-a-week commitment. We do not just “happen” to exercise together. It requires us to set our alarms, get out of bed a little earlier than usual, and don our exercise gear and walking shoes. Walking with God also requires a conscious decision…it does not happen by chance. We make a choice to take the steps toward God that prove our desire is to be right by His side. That is the best choice we can make each day. It is a choice that grants us an improved mindset and an increased sense of peace.

How beautiful it is to serve a God who is eager and willing to walk through this life with us step by step and to shed His light on our lives.

 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 ESV

(This is my May contribution to Devotableapp.com –  a website full of encouragement!)

It’s Not About You

Hello! This was on devotableapp.com as my monthly contribution yesterday, March 21st. I’d love for you to take a few moments to read it and tell me what you think!

If you are not excited to go to your church on Sunday mornings, the church is not necessarily doing church wrong…maybe you are.

Church isn’t about you, or me, or any of us. Sure, we receive amazing benefits from going to church, such as being fed by the Word of God, fellowshipping with others who love the Lord, and learning more about our Savior, but again, it is really not about us.

Church is about God. It is about what we can give to a perfect God, not about what we can get from a congregation of imperfect people. It is about worshipping a God who is so-much-more-than-worthy of the “sacrifice” of getting out of our comfortable bed and possibly putting up with some aspects of the service we find annoying. And yes, I will say it: When we go to church, we will most likely encounter irritating people, so it might just be time to decide that pleasing God is more important than trying to avoid being offended by someone’s conduct, lifestyle, or personality.

Read the rest at:

https://devotableapp.com/daily-devotion-its-not-about-you/

Not Alone

Today, instead of our home church, we attended a church with our youngest son in his college town, as we were visiting him and watching his weekend basketball games.

We joined together with strangers with whom we share a common bond of desiring to honor God by going to “His house” on Sunday mornings.

As we left the service, we heard reports that today in a church in Texas, an evil, reprehensible man carried out an evil, reprehensible act.

We may never know or understand why it happened, but we can be assured and we can assure others of what we DO know: God IS with us through absolutely every moment of our lives. We sang about it, as you can see on the screens in the photo: “I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.”

Other lyrics from this powerful Kari Jobe song remind us we need not fear. “In the midst of deep sorrow, I see Your light is breaking through. The dark of night will not overtake me. I am pressing into You. Lord, You fight my every battle, and I will not fear.”

And another line of the song is, “You bring healing to my soul.”  Oh, so many hurting people are in need of healing because of this senseless, horrendous event, but we know the Healer. The hashtag, “PrayersForTexas,” is thoughtful, but empty, if not accompanied by the actual act of lifting these victims’ loved ones to our Heavenly Father.

If this isn’t the time to share the love of Jesus with others, and to earnestly pray for Him to make Himself known to those that doubt Him, I don’t know when is. Love others. Pray for others. Assure others. God is here, He will never leave us, and He heals.

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Who Determines the Value of Life?

I cannot begin to know the feelings and emotions that are experienced when a medical professional states that a baby is not going to be born with the “ten-little-fingers-ten-little-toes perfection” that one initially expects. But one thing I do know: from His heavenly view, God does not look down upon newborns in hospital nurseries and ever once utter an “Oops.”

When a baby is not born how we may have originally envisioned, questions sometimes arise regarding the quality of life, but it is human-defined quality. We look at potential future and gauge it in human terms and measures.

A couple of particular families who have children with special needs have been on my mind lately. Their lives will never be the same, but their growth, maturity, and love has increased dramatically through this unexpected turn in their lives. These situations do not have to mean the end of a dream. They can signify the beginning of a new one.

Years ago, a couple brought their son to our apartment door to trick-or-treat for Halloween. He was dressed as an adorable pumpkin, and to my knowledge was unable to walk or speak. The smiles on their faces as they participated in a special family moment together are forever etched in my mind. Numerous times in the few months we lived there, I saw the father, who had a rugged and rough exterior, interact in a beautifully gentle manner with his son. I watched the mother show devotion and dedication to her boy whenever they were out and about. I will never forget the bond I observed between those parents and their cherished son. That extraordinary family modeled what genuine love looks like. And any questions in my mind about the quality of life for people who are not deemed ideal by this world’s standards disappeared forever.

In similar circumstances all over the world, we can see precious children who touch others in remarkable ways. They bring out in others the capacity to love and nurture in ways they previously did not know were possible. And parents experience a strength borne out of a love that they maybe never realized they were capable of.

The One who knit us together in our mother’s wombs gave us life. Every life is a gift from God and a gift to others. Every life is sacred, and the life lessons we learn through others are sacred. Every life is valuable and adds value to others’ lives.

God is the One to go to if we are wrestling with a question concerning quality of life. After all, He not only sees the value in all of His children, He is the One who places it there.

 

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Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;  Jeremiah 1:5a
For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Singing Over You

Ever since I can remember, music has had a profound effect on me. Certain songs seemingly transport me back in time, lift my mood, and even motivate me.

Singing, songwriting, playing the piano, and leading music in my church are all activities that I treasure and consciously find time for in my life. When my life lacks music, my life feels as if it’s…lacking.

Zephaniah 3:17 is a verse that has always intrigued me…it says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” The entire verse is an incredible picture of Who God is, but the part that fascinates me is that He sings over us. It is so intimate; so meaningful.

I wrote a song entitled, “Singing Over You,” inspired by this cherished verse.
The lyrics are: “Feeling alone again in a crowd. Sick and tired of being left out. When tears start falling, I pray You’ll hear Him calling. May you believe His word to be true. That your God is singing over you. I see you questioning again. When will this feeling ever end? His arms are open. Bring to him a heart that’s broken. May you believe His Word to be true. That your God is singing over you.
Your Heavenly Father takes delight in who you are. He draws you closer, and He heals your wounds and scars. Give him praise. He is a God who saves. And He renews your strength. May today be the day that you hear His glorious song.
May His perfect love overwhelm you. May you believe me when I tell you: that your God loves you just the way that you are, and He sees who you can be, His love transforms us amazingly.
Your Heavenly Father takes delight in who you are. He draws you closer, and he heals your wounds and scars. Give Him praise. He is the God who saves, and He renews your strength.
May today be the day that you hear His glorious song. Over you. His glorious song.”

When a mom sings a lullaby to soothe her baby or a group of carolers lift the spirits of the disheartened with their Christmas tunes, there is an unparalleled sincerity and sweetness in those actions. This sweet sincerity can be seen, heard and felt. The song brings a sense of peace to the listener’s ears.

The verse in Zephaniah reminds us that God is a personal God. God sings over us. What a loving act by a loving God. He showers us with unequalled tenderness, devotion, and safekeeping. If you are feeling alone, lost, or less-than, remember that God is truly in your midst. As He sings over you, may the beauty of His melody and His love bring you His matchless peace.

Expected Grace

Christians, we are a fortunate lot, aren’t we? We serve the God of ceaseless mercy, second chances, and staggering grace. We know that we know that we know that when we walk out of His will, God will lovingly forgive us once again.

I used to envision Him as a God that begrudgingly forgave me again and again because it was, after all, what He does and Who He is.  It is part of His job description. I do not know why I saw Him as being reluctant to forgive, but I did. But when it hit me that the Father of the Bible’s very own Prodigal Son was a true picture of God Himself sprinting toward me at the first hint of repentance, my perspective of Him changed, praise God! He is not irritated with us when we sin, turn back to Him, sin, turn back to Him, sin, and once again turn back to Him. He is overjoyed. He may have every right in the world to be annoyed and/or angry, but instead of rolling His holy eyes at us, He reaches out His forgiving arms to us.

However, when we repeatedly choose the sin over the Son, what we are truly saying is that we would rather sin…commit an act against God…do the very thing that separates us from Him, than walk with Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

I suppose we could continue on in that pattern…knowing that even though we are sincerely apologetic, the sin might be victorious again because well, even though we haven’t admitted it out loud, we have decided it is easier to rely on expected grace than to work, fight, and pray through to a victory of overcoming sin. I have been there on more than one period in my life regarding more than one sin. Allow me to share with you the affect that continuing on in that pattern had on my relationship with Jesus, and why my encouragement to you is: “Stop the cycle!”

  1. We know the act itself… the gossip, the cheating, the lying… is not what detaches us from God. Not that these are minor issues in any way, shape, or form. There are undeniable consequences to all of these acts. However, I believe that God is most concerned about what lies at the core of our choice to deliberately reject His way. The heart condition that causes us to sin is what causes the disconnect. Every time the sin wins, we are making a choice between telling God and showing God that our love for Him is first and foremost in our life or our love for Him is secondary to our love for unfulfilling ways.
  2. Another thing that happens is that we make it harder to hear from Him. Our hearts harden, our resolve weakens, and the distance between us expands.  Oh, Friend, we can rest assured that He is ready to run toward us even if He has farther to go, but the road IS longer and our weariness may set in sooner. The discouragement we feel when we realize we again allowed the Holy Spirit’s voice to be drowned out by our self-centeredness can make us feel defeated and ready to give up. The deeper we allow ourselves to go into the ugly pit of sinful behavior, the harder to get back to the beauty of the surface.

When we begin to take advantage of God’s grace in order to continue in our sin, we are making a decision to be satisfied with the temporary, artificial happiness that sin provides, instead of being secure in the contentment of the lasting, authentic joy that God provides.

God offers us an incomparable gift in His grace. Let us be gracious; not greedy, in receiving it. Let us never feel entitled to it, and instead feel empowered by it to dive more deeply into relationship with our amazing God.

 

What About Love?

A quick check of trending Twitter topics often include hashtags that involve the word, “love.” There are memes about love and movies about love. Music has a whole genre devoted to love. Songs tell us that love, sweet love, is what the world needs now, that love will keep us together, that love is a battlefield, and that love can build a bridge.

We have all heard sentences begin with, “If he loved you, he wouldn’t do such and such,” and “If she really loved you, she wouldn’t have said so and so.” Maybe you and I have started some our own sentences with something very similar.

Love. The word itself gets thrown about quite liberally, and so do opinions on it. Beliefs abound on what it should look like and sound like. How it should act and react. Unfortunately, we get bombarded by several worldly views and versions of love. Take just a moment to determine how many times you hear made-up definitions of love that are not drowning in self-centeredness and superficiality?

Recently, this thought has occurred to me: what if we quit assigning our own meanings to love and instead went directly to the Originator of love to determine what it truly is? Can you imagine what would happen if we would decide to immerse ourselves in God’s Word, which so wonderfully displays His pure and perfect love? If we would learn it and then live it? We would do well to educate ourselves on His definition, espouse it as our own, and strive to excel at living it out.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is arguably the most popular passage in the Bible regarding love. It reads: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

That is quite a list! If we strive to adhere to that list of verses when we love others, then the first three words of the very next verse (1 Corinthians 4:8) will show itself to be true: ‘Love never fails.’

Conversely, the worldly views of love that we are seemingly inundated with are prone to failure.

The instructions on how to give true, unfailing love are found in God’s Inspired Word, which we have wide-open access to.

Therefore, we can choose to research the real meaning and choose to reject the world’s meaning. We can choose to show the real meaning and choose to shun the world’s meaning.

Lord, with Your help, please help us live out true, unfailing love. Amen.

A Beautiful Blessing

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Have you ever received an encouraging message at the exact moment you needed it? It happened to me recently. This particular day, I was allowing my negative emotions dictate how I felt about not only the day, but also how I felt about myself. I have always struggled with putting too much stock in unkind comments or comments that I interpreted as unkind. Those comments cause a feeling of rejection in me…which is a trait that happens to be on my list of “I-totally-need-to-work-on-that” qualities.

Filled with an unhealthy dose of self-pity, I walked outside to retrieve our mail. In our mailbox was a handwritten note from a dear friend. (By the way, how many people actually handwrite notes nowadays? How cool is that?) On the outside of the card was a beautiful print. The beauty of the words on the inside of that card had an immediate effect on how I was feeling on the inside!

It was a sincere note of gratitude to me and to God for our friendship. I walked back in the house with a new outlook. I guess you now know how changeable my emotions can be! I’ll be honest: sudden mood changes seem to be a part of my wiring. (Okay, add that to the aforementioned list.) Well-timed, beautiful words took my focus off of feeling sorry for myself and put it back where it belonged: on God and how much He loves us.

When it comes to my mind to thank someone or to share words of admiration with someone, I try not to delay! When you sense a prodding to extend gracious words to others, I encourage you to grab a card and start writing, grab a phone and start texting, or grab a chair and start visiting face-to-face. A conversation that seems fleeting or inconsequential to us might be the same words that replay in their mind when they are in need of a boost in their morale.

I am certain you can think of times in your life when someone has said (or typed or written) beautiful words to you at just the right time. One of the many wonderful attributes of our Holy Spirit is His impeccable timing; He nudges us to extend encouragement to others right when they need it the most.

Proverbs 25:11 brings beautiful images to mind. The Message version says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” In the New King James version, it reads, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” The right words said at the right time to the right person can certainly be thought of as beautiful, just as a custom-made piece of jewelry or golden apples in settings of silver would.

Let us join together in praying that we become more sensitive to our Holy Spirit’s prompting to encourage others with uplifting messages. What a blessing to add beauty to the lives of others!

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

(This post appeared on LiftUpYourDay.com today. Check that site out for daily encouragement!)

 

Too Weary or Worried to Worship?

Do you ever walk into your church service begrudgingly? Maybe your week didn’t go as planned, or you just received bad news, or you are engaged in a seemingly never-ending battle with a person or condition in your life.

Do you ever choose to stay in bed instead of walking through those sanctuary doors? Maybe avoiding the potential unwelcome greetings or “hey, how are yous” seems more inviting than facing them and having to possibly come up with a phony reply or worse yet, answer honestly!

Many Sundays, I am the worship leader in our church. I am expected to help ‘usher’ the congregants to the throne of the King of the Kings in a time of worship and song. Sometimes I am not ‘feeling it.’ There, I said it. Sometimes I have had a bad week, or I or one of my family members have suffered a huge disappointment. And openly worshipping God is not number one on my priority list. There, I said that too.

I realize that I sound like I sometimes worship God based on my life circumstances instead of basing it on Who He is. That would be true at times. It is also something I am working hard to remedy.

I shared the following on my Gwen Thielges Writing and Music Facebook page a few months ago: “Something I’ve experienced through leading music in our church: When things are going ‘right’ in my life, and I go to church with praise on my tongue, it’s easy to be in front and encourage a congregation to lift up the name of Jesus in song. When things are not so much ‘right’ in my life…it’s hard. But it is always, always rewarding. It never fails that God speaks to me through the worship time on those tough mornings and gets my heart prepared for the rest of the service. He reminds me of His faithfulness, His plan, and the fact that He sees me and hears me. And most of all, I’m reminded of His love. If God cares that some insignificant-feeling, middle-aged mama in North Dakota is feeling down…then my friend, He cares about and loves us all! And He wants us to know that we know that we know that we are loved beyond description. I just want to encourage you this morning to sing a song of praise whether you ‘feel’ like it or not. You’ll be blessed. God WILL show up.”

May I encourage you to do better with this than I do? I am not saying we should worship God even when we do not ‘feel’ like it just because He will show up. I am saying we should worship God even when we do not ‘feel’ like it simply because He is worthy of our worship, adoration, and gratefulness no matter what!

He has a master design for our lives. Our disappointments, battles, and scars somehow add to the beauty of the tapestry He is weaving in our lives – something that can only be done by a God as awesome as our God is. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What a promise to remind us that He is working in the lives of those who love Him through all the details. It is a reminder that we can trust Him through the difficult times for results that bring glory to Him. We can trust Him enough to say, “I choose to put my eyes on You, God, rather than on my life’s circumstances.” When our eyes are on Him, we can’t help but notice that we are in the presence of a God who deserves enthusiastic, extravagant worship.

Let us remember that worshipping our Heavenly Father is an all-the-time opportunity, not just a 20-minute Sunday morning opportunity right before the sermon. Psalm 29:2 says, “Honor the LORD for the glory of his name. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

May our lives show Jeremiah 29:13 to be true, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Come, let us seek Him with our whole hearts and worship Him through the weariness and worry. He is worthy. Bonus: He WILL show up!

What Will You Do With The Gift?

I would like for you to imagine telling someone there is a gift waiting for them with their name on it. Imagine telling them this particular gift will renew their perspective, remind them of their priorities, and reveal their purpose. Now, imagine if that person said, “Wow, that gift sounds awesome! How wonderful to have access to that!”…and then they proceed to ignore it? They decide to leave it unopened. Would you be outraged? Shocked? Puzzled, at the very least?

If that gift was offered to you, would you ignore it and allow it to remain wrapped? No way!

But we all do it! We leave one of our most beautiful treasures unopened. Friends, we’ve been given a gift beyond words: a love letter from the Originator of Love. A Holy Book filled with love, lessons, and life. Literally!

The Bible reminds us who we are, whose we are, and how we can live in a way that communicates God’s life-saving message to others. While reading His Word, we are given the gift of being in His presence and hearing His voice speaking directly to us.

When it comes to the gift of His Word, why do we sometimes pretend it’s not there? Why do we dismiss it as an unimportant aspect of our Christian walk?

Sometimes the thought is, “The Bible is hard to understand.” Yes, some parts ARE difficult to grasp. Remember, we serve a God whose ways are above our ways! That doesn’t mean we should avoid His Word. Instead, that can be one of the reasons we strive to read His Word more often – to get to know Him better.

I have heard people say the Old Testament is boring or that it does not relate to today’s world. However, as I’ve begun to see the historical relevance, the way in which the Old Testament and New Testament completely intertwine, and the character of God revealed through the ‘pre-Jesus’ time of the world, I have come to love that part of Scripture!

I would be lying if I said that the quality and quantity of my Bible-reading time is what it should be. But let me say that the times in my life when I have taken the time to delve into the Bible and take His Words to heart, I have been able to hear Him speaking to me much more clearly.

While regularly reading our Bible will not mean that our life will become peaceful and free from hardship, our ability to deal with those messy life circumstances will improve immensely.

Our focus will no longer be the problem. It will instead be the One who is bigger than the problem. We will become less concerned about what the world thinks of us, and instead be more enthralled by what God thinks of us. He delights in us and rejoices over us. We will discover a generous amount of beautiful truths such as those when we open our Bible.

When my husband and I give our children a gift, their thankful reactions and smiles bring us happiness. Imagine the happiness we bring our Heavenly Father when we unwrap His Inspired Word – the happiness we bring Him when we see, experience, and thank Him for such an indescribable gift. May today be the day we open His gift and marvel in it!