My Calloused Heart

Last weekend after I got home from a trip. My son and I were sitting on the couch talking.  He held up his hands as he often does to see if his have grown bigger than mine (not yet!).

He was looking at my hands and asked me what the bumps are from.  I explained that these were callouses from working with my hands – learning carpentry from my dad, working in the garden, raking leaves, rock climbing… He looked at his own hands – still baby soft.

My hands are a resume of years of working in a warehouse. Calluses formed to protect the tender skin from harm.

Later that night as I was reflecting on my day, that conversation resurfaced and a question skirted in and around my mind: Where else might calluses have formed? As I pondered on that question an image came to mind – my heart … covered in calluses.

I closed my eyes and sighed. That explained a lot. My heart is harder than it used to be. And sadly, much harder than I’d like it to be. It’s easy to see how I’ve gotten here. Each time I’ve been hurt, my approach to dealing with pain has been stoic.

The warrior-like determination inside me to protect myself had affected the softness of my heart. With each offense, each lie, each rejection, I made a silent declaration to not be hurt like that again.

I thought I’d handled things well because I hold no grudges. I’m desperately aware of my own sin and hold no accounts for offenses. But that image of a callused heart revealed the truth that I haven’t handled offenses as well as I thought. It’s hard dealing with people. We’re all sinful and make choices that hurt others.

But for me, over time suspicion replaced trust, and hyper-vigilance replaced peace. My empathy was diminished, which is a very dangerous heart-position for someone whom God has called to love others.

I’m convinced these calluses aren’t supposed to stay there. A callused heart may protect me from great pain, but it also keeps me from great love.

To love deeply, to love like Jesus, requires risk. I’ll be honest, that vulnerable position makes me want to wrap a few more layers around my tender heart, and vow beyond all measure to protect myself.

This makes me ask a question I really don’t like to ask. At all.

Am I willing to risk being hurt to obey the call to love?

King David, God’s warrior, spoke of this decision as a “sacrifice.” David was betrayed by those he loved and trusted. He had every right to seek revenge.

And yet Psalm 51 speaks of David’s desire for a pure heart and to tell others about God. In verse 17 he says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Rather than choosing to protect his heart with pride, David chose brokenness and humility. He took his pain to God rather than move on like nothing happened.

It’s from this place of humility that God met David and cared for his broken heart. With God’s care, it mended in a healthy way, free from calluses.

There are some people I can’t trust. But that doesn’t apply to everyone. Rather, most are good folks who make an occasional mistake. They are the ones who need my softened heart.

So here’s my commitment. Rather than bandage my own wounds and act like I’m not hurt, I’m taking every offense to my Heavenly Father. Every day I’m praying, Lord, heal and soften my heart so I can love like You.

 Lord, You alone know the many ways people have hurt me. And You see the hardened places in my heart that affect how I love others. I’m asking You to break my heart in a good way, Lord. Be my protection from the rough rubbing of the world, so I can be Your hands and feet to a world in need of Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”


#30DaysofPraise Conclusion

I can’t believe it’s December already!  I wanted to take some time to reflect back on the #30DaysofPraise before I wrote a conclusion piece; plus I’m still figuring out this blog design thing!

A couple of years ago I took kind of a sabbatical from church and some other things for a time to just seek the Lord.  I was in a place where I wanted Jesus to speak to me.  I wanted to hear God’s voice and be rooted in God’s Word in a deeper way.  So for this time, I stepped away from church, I put down devotion books and stopped listening to sermons and I opened my Bible asked the Holy Spirit to show me Himself.

For almost 18 months this is how I lived before God and as I did, He began revealing aspects of His character to me, one-by-one.  For instance, I might find a scripture that I meditated on and went back to over and over again for days or weeks; or God would begin showing me something about Him like His Holiness.  And for weeks I would read scriptures and reflect on it and just let myself be overwhelmed by His Holiness and what that really means.  And let me tell you – God is SO HOLY!!  I always knew in my head that He is holy, but it meant so much more for me to experience it myself from Him, rather than someone else telling me!

So, from that time I spent set apart to seek the Lord grew a larger capacity in me to love others.  As we allow God to pour His Spirit into us, our capacity to love others increases.  So #30DaysofPraise was my way of outwardly walking it out and sharing the journey of what it has been like for God to reveal Praise to me – what it means to praise God, what the Bible says about praise (363 verses to be exact!), how believers that have walked before us praised and the powerful impact praise has on our lives physically, mentally and spiritually.

I have to admit that writing the journey wasn’t easy everyday of those 30 days.  But even on the hard days when I sat at my computer to write, the Holy Spirit would lead me in what to share, and it was those posts that I got the most feedback on – those were the words that touched the most people or impacted people in a more powerful way.  So I can honestly give Him all the credit and glory and, of course, PRAISE!

At the beginning of the 30 Days I had this story in mind to end with…

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.  And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.  As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,  saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  ~Luke 19:35-40

Isaiah 55:12 says: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
 Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord.”   ~Psalm 98

Can you imagine the rocks crying out praises to God, trees and rivers clapping their hands, mountains singing!  If we, God’s people, cease to praise Him, the rest of creation will – that is how WORTHY He is of praise!!

What this tells me is that we are indeed all created to praise!  When we praise God we are fulfilling our purpose!  How wonderful it must be in the eyes of God when we gather as His people and praise Him together!!  Can you imagine what it must be like for the Lord on Sunday mornings to receive the collective praises of people all around the world.  When we lift up the Holy name of Jesus as a church, a community, as the body of Christ we join with the angels and the rest of creation, and we get a small glimpse of what eternity will be like!!

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  ~1 Peter 2:9

What would it be like if everyone who calls Jesus Lord lived a life of praise?

Psalm 96

“Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
    The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.

 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord!”

#30DaysofPraise Highlights

Every night after dinner both of my kids say “Thanks for supper, Momma!” It is something they have done since they were pretty small. I think it started during a time when we had very little and I didn’t always know how I was going to feed them or had to get creative with what was on hand! There’s something about being dependent on a miracle to make you grateful for what you have!

Those days are behind us now and God has been faithful to provide! We have never been without and still – it doesn’t matter if I make them a sandwich or cook Thanksgiving dinner – their heartfelt thanks is always the same! Those four little words bless me SO MUCH- EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! I NEVER get tired of hearing it!

Which got me thinking… how much it must bless the heart of God when we, His children, take the time to stop listing our needs and requests and just THANK Him!!

As a family we have kept a gratitude journal for several years that helps us remember that everyday, good or bad, there is always something to be grateful for and I’m so happy that this “attitude of gratitude” has been established in our home. Counting our blessings is great, but there is something powerful about SAYING thank you!!

So as November begins and we get ready for a season of Thanksgiving, I don’t want to just list a bunch of things that I’m thankful for, instead I want to intentionally LIVE A LIFE OF PRAISE! I am thankful that the tough days have allowed me to experience the sufficiency of God’s grace, and I just want to give Him praise!!

I have learned that if you do something every day for 28 days it becomes a habit, so every day for the month of November I will be posting praises to the God who I know as my Lord and Savior, my Redeemer and Protector, my Healer and Provider, my Love and my Friend!! I pray that these posts will remind you also of the Great God we serve and that you will join me in giving Him all the praise and glory – no matter what’s going on in your life, simply because HE IS GOOD and WORTHY OF ALL OUR PRAISE!!

“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” -Psalm 150

“I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise Him. Who is like you, O Lord, majestic in holiness and awesome in glorious deeds?
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them with your strength. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance-
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. The Lord reigns for ever and ever.”

~Exodus 15 – the song of Moses and the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea – the same God who delivered them from slavery is still God today!!!

Several years ago my dad gave me a few verses from Psalm 139 in this beautiful wormy chestnut frame he made. When the kids and I moved into the house we have now I hung it in the their bathroom beside the mirror. I had forgotten about it until last week when I was talking to my daughter about how God didn’t make any mistakes when He created us and she said “I know, Mom, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” When she saw the surprised look on my face she said – “It’s been hanging on the wall in our bathroom for like 5 years – right where YOU put it!” (teenagers! haha) You never know the impact a seemingly small, simple act might have!!

Here are some other verses from Psalm 139 that I just love:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.”

How wonderful to know that the God of the universe sees you! He knew you before you cried your first cry and He is not surprised by your circumstances or decisions today! He has a beautiful plan and purpose for every moment of your life and He is always with you – you are never alone!! PRAISE THE LORD!!

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
He forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
he satisfies your desires with good things.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Praise the LORD, my soul.” ~Psalm 103

Remembering who God is and what He has done always puts life in proper perspective! Experience is one of the strongest builders of our faith. If you look back on your life and see all that He has done for you so far, the road ahead will look much brighter because you know that if He did it before, He can do it again!!

Praise is one of the most powerful weapons of Spiritual warfare. Many of the breakthroughs I have experienced have come as a result of choosing to praise – sometimes even through my tears or on my toughest days regardless of how I felt! Praise gives us the strength to persevere and overcome!!
The Bible gives us clear examples of the powerful effects of praise:

“The priests blew the trumpets. When the people heard the blast of the trumpets, they shouted as loud as they could. The wall fell at once. The people rushed straight into the city and took it.” Joshua 6:20

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” Acts 16:25-26

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’
As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the armies who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”  2 Chronicles 20:21-22

“Most Christians believe that praising God and being thankful is good; however, many think it is optional, something to do after they have served the Lord in other ways. Some Christians only praise God when their circumstances are good and they have a reason to thank Him. The truth is that praising God is not an option. Praise has a powerful effect on the believer, the devil, and on God. It is our highest calling.” -Andrew Womack

“Let the high praises of God be in their mouths
and two-edged swords in their hands. This is the glorious PRIVILEGE of his faithful ones. PRAISE the LORD!”  ~ Psalm 149:6-9

At the beginning of 2014 I told my kids that for our family devotions I wanted us to read the Bible chronologically together. And my son, Ty (age 10), spoke up pretty quickly and said “No, mom, I think we should read the book of John first.” hmmmm

So the very next night and couple of weeks after that we read through the gospel of John together! We read about each miracle and watched how Jesus met the needs of people He came into contact with EVERY time! The words of Jesus over and over saying “YOUR faith has made you whole, YOUR faith has set you free, YOUR faith has healed you…” had such a powerful impact on us!!

It caused us to look back and see what God has done in our family and how incredibly FAITHFUL He has been since we started our faith journey!! It was SUCH a profound revelation for us to know and understand the depth of the faithfulness of God! My heart was SO full that I thought – this must be how Thomas Chisolm felt when he wrote the hymn “How Great is Thy Faithfulness”!

Sometimes I just meditate on the faithfulness of my Jesus and my heart is SO overwhelmed that all I can do is praise Him!! I encourage you to reflect on how your faith and trust in God has activated His power and faithfulness in your life and GIVE HIM PRAISE!!

“I have trusted the Lord and have not faltered; I have always been mindful of your unfailing Love and I have LIVED in RELIANCE on your Faithfulness. I will proclaim aloud your praise and tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 26:3,7

“Man was created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord and in this way to save our soul. The other things on earth were created for man’s use to help him reach the end for which he was created.” Saint Ignatius

“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth.”
~ Psalm 48:1-2

There are so many things I love about the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18!! When God sends down His fire from heaven and the flames lick up the water and all the Baal worshippers SEE that God is real and they all together respond in praise and worship!!

I remember the first time I read this story to my kids; we were all so moved by the power of God that we worshipped the Lord in our living room for the first time. And for weeks after my daughter, Caroline, would go around everywhere (Walmart, the grocery store, the gas station…) saying “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” Haha!

I can’t read that story without getting excited and trying to imagine what it will be like when the day comes that EVERYONE will see God and we will ALL praise Him together!!!

“God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 2 Philippians 2:9-10

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
1 Kings 18:36-39 (Go read the whole story – I KNOW it will BLESS you!!)

I love that the Bible gives us so many stories of real lives and examples of how God works-proof and reassurance that His promises are real. It can be hard sometimes to keep praising God when you’re still believing Him for something or waiting for a prayer to be answered. We can easily get distracted and forget how good God is when we are focused on our problems.

I love the story of Hannah and how her focus is on the Faithful One even when she takes her answered prayer, Samuel, and gives him back to the Lord with a joyful heart! I can’t imagine how different her story would be if she hadn’t needed to desperately cry out to God! God was able to do an incredibly powerful work that affected history because there was room for Him to move! The Lord brought purpose out of her pain and she gave it all back to Him in praise!!

“My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful ones.”
1 Samuel 2:1-2,8-9

Today I celebrate the anniversary of my decision to follow Christ. On November 13th,1990 I was first baptized and on November 13th, 2003 I rededicated my life to the Lord. My journey has been full of adventure, hardship, joy, pain, miracles and lots of surprises!

This week I was thinking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and that when they were faced with the decision to worship God or worship the king’s golden image – they chose God, but they still had to go through the fire. God didn’t save them until they were IN the fire! He didn’t save them FROM the fire He saved them IN the fire!

When Jesus ministry began John the Baptist said “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and FIRE.” Matthew 3:11

1 Peter 1:6-7 says “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by FIRE—MAY RESULT IN PRAISE, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

I have been through more than I ever expected, but my life is also so much better than I ever imagined! There will be many fiery seasons ahead but I am SO Thankful for the infinite Sovereignty of My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!! My heart will explode if I don’t give Him PRAISE!!!
“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29

Full Definition of PRAISE
: to express a favorable judgment of : commend
: to glorify especially by the attribution of perfections
: to say or write good things about (someone or something)
: to express approval of (someone or something)
: to express thanks to or love and respect

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the WORD of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11

“I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will TELL of all Your marvelous works.” Psalm 9:1

“I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will SING praises to You. I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your loving-kindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your WORD above all Your name.” Psalm 138:1,2

” I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.
The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.” Psalm 18

The church I grew up in had several very talented musicians, songwriters and singers. I often think back about some of the most powerful times of praise and worship when no one wanted to leave!

One of the things I miss is that the majority of the songs we sang were scriptures, like the one above, put to music and sung back to the Lord. I recently started making a list of them all with the corresponding verses, and I’m still adding to it! So, as a kid I learned SO much of the Word through praise and worship!

Even now when I’m worshipping, praying, or even without my personal intention, the Holy Spirit often brings the song/verse that I need to mind in a precious and timely way! The Word of God is SO POWERFUL!!!

Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

What a blessing to have His Word in our hearts and be able to PRAISE Him with the same powerful Word in return!!

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46

The Magnificat is such a beautiful example of serving with a joyful heart. God chose Mary for a big job, and even though sacrifice was required she said Yes. Through the days of being gossiped about and wrongly accused, Mary saw the blessing and she turned to the Lord in PRAISE!!

I’ve always dreamed of doing BIG things for God, helping change lives and bringing help, hope and encouragement to people around the world. But Holy Spirit often reminds me to be faithful where I am, with what I’ve been given, and let the Lord add to it according to HIS will!

Luke 16:10 says:  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”

It’s my prayer that I will consider it a blessing to have opportunities to serve. And do so with praise in my heart regardless of the size or importance of the task; to see the blessings and learn crucial lessons through the mundane, humble, behind-the-scenes or thankless jobs that I’m called to do.
Servanthood can be so wonderful when we have our eyes on Jesus and PRAISE in our hearts!!

The beginning of Job features God and Satan talking. And Satan told God that Job only praised Him because He had blessed Job. “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 1:11 So Satan set out to attack all of Job’s stuff in an effort to steal his praise.

Likewise, we have an enemy that seeks to rob us of our praise. 1 Peter 5:8 says “YOUR enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” It’s important for us to remember that when we feel like we’re under attack, the enemy is not after our cars, houses, relationships, our health… but he attacks those things in an effort to steal our praise.

It’s easy when life gets hard to lose focus on Jesus. Often, instead we compare ourselves to others, we make excuses, we look for fulfillment or solutions other than God, and sometimes we blame God for our unhappiness.

Our praise must be a pretty powerful and significant thing if the enemy would work so hard to keep us from giving praise to God!!

When Job was discouraged, God reminded him of who He is –

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?” Job 38

And then Job replies: (Job 42)
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Keeping our eyes on the Lord and our mind on the truth of His word will help us “Be sober and alert” (1 Peter 5:8). So that when life happens or we are attacked by the enemy, we can defeat him by continuing to give God praise!
Our God never changes – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8), and He is ALWAYS WORTHY OF PRAISE!!

Psalm 95
Let Us Sing Songs of Praise

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Praise helps us get our hearts in tune with God so we can hear Him. God is always speaking through the things in and around us – it’s up to us to be aware of His Presence and listen for His voice – let Him reveal knew things to you as you grow in Him each day!

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

“The Lord your God is in your midst, He is mighty to save; HE will take great delight in YOU; He will quiet you with His Love; HE will REJOICE over YOU with singing.”
~ Zephaniah 3:17

(This is definitely a verse to insert your name in the “YOUs”!)

How incredibly HUMBLING it is to know that the God who created the Earth and everything in it by His powerful Word, not only knows my name, the number of hairs on my head, and hears my prayers, but HE REJOICES OVER ME even as I REJOICE IN HIM!!!!

I encourage you to just let that sink in for a minute or more. What an AMAZING GOD we serve and SO worthy of our PRAISE!!

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

The kids and I have been reading through the life of Moses and the Israelites and we have been in awe of God’s power and hand of provision for them. From the burning bush to Aaron’s staff; the 10 plagues that fell on the Egyptians but not God’s people to crossing the Red sea on dry ground; then fresh water from the rock, and quail and manna from heaven to guidance given through the 10 commandments and the cloud and pillar… On and on, over and over God provides.

I’m sure that if we all reflected on our lives we would see God’s provision through times that we didn’t recognize or understand until later. The Israelites didn’t see that God was providing, and we often make the same mistake. But God cares for us just like He cared for them and He LOVES to provide for us!
(Read Matthew 6:25-34).

In Deuteronomy 10 the Israelites were given a reminder that is good for us today as well…

“To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. HE IS THE ONE YOU PRAISE; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

I pray that we can all recognize the wonders of God in our lives and know Him as Jehovah Jireh – “God WILL Provide”(Gen. 22:14). and respond with PRAISE!!

I like to give my dad a hard time about when I was little, if I got hurt or upset he would always say “Oh you’re tough, you’ll be alright.” Haha I can tell SO many stories of him telling me to just BE TOUGH!” Haha If you know my dad, you know that he really is the sweetest guy! I guess that was his way of trying to encourage me!

Even now when I’m going through a hard time I have both of my parents voices in my head: my mom’s voice telling me to “think positive” and my dad’s telling me to “BE TOUGH!” Of course, I always wanted to make my dad proud, so I spent a lot of time trying so hard and telling myself that I had to be strong or at least act strong, or just tough it out.

About 5 years ago, as a grown-up girl, I got really, really sick for several days and called my dad to take me to the hospital. While I was checking in with the ER nurse I could hear my dad behind me talking to another nurse saying, “She’s going to be fine, she’s TOUGH.” And right after he said that my world went black and I hit the floor, unconscious! Haha

The more I walk with God the better I understand His strength and my need for Him. And that my trying to be tough and independent keeps me from experiencing His strength. I remember on a really hard day, I prayed and asked God to tell me that it was okay to not be tough, just for a little while, I was so tired of trying to be tough. Of course, my Jesus met me right where I was and gave me the strength to get through.

Throughout the Bible there are several examples of God taking the weak and making them strong -Moses, David and Gideon just to name a few, but the list goes on.

This powerful (and convicting) quote by Mother Teresa is what got me thinking about all of this:
“If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because GOD CANNOT FILL WHAT IS ALREADY FULL. It is as simple as that.” – Mother Teresa (wow!)

I love that when we humble ourselves, God lifts us up! Our weakness doesn’t keep us down, it allows God’s strength to shine through. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I REJOICE in my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The Bible tells us that praise is a “sacrifice” (Heb. 3:12) – in order for God to be exalted we must be humble, which means us acknowledging our need for Him. When we praise God, He is elevated and given His rightful place in our hearts and lives. And then we can joyfully live to give Him glory!

I’m so thankful for my dad and the fact that we can joke and laugh together over this!! Yes, at times we are called to “be tough”, to be strong and courageous and to be warriors. But it was never meant for us to do any of that in our own strength; and tonight that is why I’m giving Him all the PRAISE!!!

When you focus on how wonderful God is and the great things He has done, is doing and will do in your life, your natural response will be Praise, Adoration and Awe. Don’t ever let yourself get used to it – stay amazed and live a life of praise!!!

“I believe that the greatest form of prayer is praise to God. ” -Billy Graham

Our Stories

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to share a part of my story with both the church I grew up in and my current church family.  That wasn’t the original plan; due to a water main break in one church’s meeting place, the 2 churches combined for a joint service.  The unity of the 2 churches was so powerful in and of itself and I know it was no accident!  It has been the vision of many people, including myself, for a long time to see believers in the community come together; but I don’t think any of us really knew how to make it happen or how to take that first step. So God provided a way!  It was an amazing glimpse of what heaven will be like – ALL believers, regardless of denomination or preference, gathered together to Worship the One and Only true God, Jesus Christ!!

And then for me personally, it was an incredible chance to stand in the room where I first gave my life to the Lord and share what God has done throughout my life with people who were part of my journey through my childhood and the people who are part of my journey today!  It was redeeming, really, in so many ways!  I am quickly learning that when God redeems your life He doesn’t only redeem parts of it – He makes you WHOLE by redeeming every part!

I want to invite you to join me on this journey of faith from this point forward.  I know that as I write, my story – past, present and future will unfold and you will get to know what has brought me to where I am now.  But my ultimate hope, and the real purpose for me writing this blog, is that as I share my joys and struggles, adventures, lessons, revelations and questions that you will be encouraged, strengthened, filled with hope and the understanding that you are not alone in how you feel, think or pray.  I also hope that you will share your stories with me and that we will have the chance to grow and learn, hope and dream, pray, cry and rejoice together!

I am SO thankful that God is the Author of our stories.  It is He who orchestrates the details and when our loves are surrendered to His will and plan our stories are full of wonder, adventure, love, hope and victory! For every life-story He writes He is the Hero and the Glory is all given to Him! It is so beautiful to me that not only is He the Author but He’s also the Finisher of our Faith stories, and with our lives in His hands, we have the hope of a Happily Ever After ending!  Whenever I get the chance to share my story with a church or group I always walk away thinking about how grateful I am that my story isn’t over yet, and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do next!

“Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”  ~Habakkuk 1:5

So, here goes…