Growing in Grace through Celebration: Worship and Praise

Does your relationship with God cause you to celebrate?

Does knowing His presence in your life lead you to praise and worship?

What is your response to His goodness to you?  Does it go by overlooked?

Those are tough questions. And sadly enough they often do not evoke the answers we want. There are so many factors in life that seem to squelch our celebration of having such an awesome Lord. Some of the following may be what you would include in your list.

  • the mundane hours of each and every day
  • the pain, physical or emotional
  • the worry that weighs on our hearts and minds
  • the disappointment that slaps you in the face at every turn
  • the overwhelm of all there is to do
  • the expectations and obligations that come our way from others in our lives

One by one these pile up, and as the stack grows taller it blocks the light of the Lord’s shining glory. Satan wants us to get bogged down in the muck and mire of life and look out only to see our problems and frustrations.  He wants us to grow in hopelessness.

It seems that all too often our eyes focus on the temporal, we see the here and now and do not live with an eternal perspective. We see the glass half empty. We miss the reality of who God is in the midst of all that weighs us down.

Unless the Lord does some magnificent and spectacular miracles we often miss His presence. Our focus is narrow and the overload of seeming negatives keep us from having a heart of celebration.

The Word tells us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Consider these:

  • a new sunrise
  • a mug of steaming hot coffee made the way you like it
  • a warm bed to sleep in
  • the chirping birds
  • the frolicking squirrels playing in the backyard
  • a safe road trip to the store or across country
  • food your fridge and pantry
  • conversation with a loved one
  • your very next breath

There are so many reasons to praise God in our everyday lives. We only need to look into the moments of our lives and allow ourselves to be led to glorify the Lord.

We can worship and glorify Him with our words of gratitude, with declarations of praise, with recognition of His goodness, and with realization of His work in our lives.

We can show our joy in Him and really celebrate the life He blesses us with by choosing to honor Him with obedience. We can respond to the truths of His Word by choosing to live fully for Him and being intentional about it. Living for Him brings Him glory!

There are many examples of praise, worship, and celebration in the Scriptures. One of my favorites is in Acts 3:8. Here we read of a man responding to God’s goodness with “walking and leaping and praising God.”

Many of the Psalms are filled with celebration and worship. Psalm 34 is filled with many reasons to praise. It is a wonderful tribute to God’s goodness. This Psalm begins:

“I will always thank the LORD, I will never stop praising Him, I will praise Him for what He has done, may all who are oppressed listen and be glad. Proclaim with me the LORD’S greatness, let us praise His name together.”

This psalm goes into describing many reasons to praise the Lord. Sometimes when my praise bank seems to be dwindling to empty, and complaining is constantly on my lips, I realize I don’t have the words of worship within me. It is then that I turn to Scripture and read aloud the praises that men and women of old have written. At times I make the Psalm my own by inserting my own words, my own reasons for praise.

Verse 8 of this Psalm tells us, “find out for yourself how good the LORD is.”  Your day may not seem good, maybe all of life seems to be disappointing, yet that does not change Who God is.

This Psalm was written by David who was constantly being chased and having his life threatened by King Saul. David was always on the run, trying to hide and find safety. He was always depending on the Lord for protection and deliverance from his troubles. He found the Lord’s goodness to be real even in the midst of all his problems.

Psalm 145 is another Psalm of praise by David which is worthy of looking at as we discuss celebration. Again, surrounded by trouble and often filled fear, David found reasons to celebrate Who God is. He praised God for:

  • His mighty acts
  • His abundant goodness
  • His righteousness
  • His grace
  • His compassion
  • His rich love
  • His trustworthiness
  • His way of satisfying desires
  • His watching over those who love Him

So many reasons to celebrate!

David is said to have worshiped God “with all his might.” In 2 Samuel 6:14, we read of how David danced before God in public. David’s worship was without reservation.

How about you? How will you celebrate God today? What reasons can you find to praise Him and give worship to His name. We grow in grace as we come to know Lord more anrow in knowing Him we find more and more reasons to celebrate Who He is!

Next week we will look at Growing in Grace through Watching and Praying. I hope you will join me again to find out why this is so important.

 

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Sharing Your Fragility

How do you think of yourself? Strong? Responsible? On top of things? The one who can and does take care of things? The one others come to when they need the job done?

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, describes herself as having been all of the above. She got things done and more and more people recognized this fact. They expected it of her and went to her. And she said yes, time and time again, until she couldn’t anymore.

Shauna didn’t want to have to admit to being weak or unable to do something. She didn’t want to think of herself as someone who needed self-care. But she suddenly was faced with the fact that she wasn’t Wonder Woman. Shauna didn’t want to admit to being fragile, she was afraid people would think less of her. 

It was that word fragile that caught me off guard as I listened to the book on Audible in my car. Something about the word triggered tears immediately. I can relate to Shauna in being “the responsible one.” I always want to be the one who will come to the rescue and take care of things. I relate to her also in the exhaustion she felt and her feelings of being above self-care.

You see, I have to admit it is hard for me to say I am fragile. It’s difficult to say it to those around me and it has been difficult to talk with the Lord about it. It wasn’t ok to be needy, somehow that is what I learned in life.

It takes coming to a place where you have no choice, where you really can’t do it anymore, whether it’s for physical, mental, or emotional reasons or maybe for all three. And at that point you just have to stop.

This is when you begin to wrestle with the reality of not being super-human. This is when you begin to try to figure out how you really need to take care of yourself with intentionality. You admit you are fragile and needy.

The word self-care begins to be a reality of day-to-day living. I began by making a list of what kind of self-care I thought would be beneficial. The list went something like this: sitting quiet on the patio. spending time petting my bunnies, taking time to journal to work through issues or to just ramble about what I am thinking about, reading a chapter, actually giving myself permission to do it when my to-do list is not completed. Watercoloring and creative journaling also made the list. There were many things on my list. The issue was learning to relax.

The way I went about it is I decided to add a few of these ideas to each day’s to-do list. But that really wasn’t a good idea because it added pressure for me to, seemingly, have even more to do. This made me more anxious and frustrated. I seemed to be accomplishing less and continually feeling more stressed out.

It was only recently that I came to a very important realization. Self-care is not something you add to your list, it is a way of life. It is similar with going on a diet. Going on a diet is futile because it means at some point you will go off of the diet and end up at the same point you were before or maybe worse. So it is with self-care, it needs to be a mindset for life.

  • Self-care is giving yourself ample time to accomplish the tasks you need to do.
  • Self-care is limiting what could be an endless of to-do’s to what is realistic for the number of hours you have.
  • Self-care is asking for help.
  • Self-care is choosing to stop when you need a break, not because it’s on your to-do list but because you recognize you need it.
  • Self-care is about being real, being transparent with others about what you can and can’t do.
  • Self-care is sharing your fragility with the Lord. Telling Him the truth about how broken, needy, and overwhelmed you feel.

This last one is the most important. We need to seek the balm of the Lord’s love and the words of His wisdom in order to go on. He already knows we come from dust. He already knows our weaknesses. It is nothing new to Him. And I am sure that it must make Him sad to see us in our personal pressure cooker’s struggling through life. You know how you feel when you recognize someone you love is in need but they haven’t come to you for help. You just want to show them love by being there for them. God’s love for us is so much greater than that, He wants to be our all-in-all. So, we need to remember to take our fragile selves to Him in prayer.

If you look in my prayer journal you will frequently find prayers of desperation like the one that follows. I pour it all out to Him.

Lord, I am fragile. I can’t do it all. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop or how to take care of myself. You see me. You know my struggles. Lord, help me to let go of the need to prove myself, to myself or to anyone. Help me order my day in a way that I find balance and rest. Lord, help me to talk with others about how I feel fragile. I need to ask for help. I need to set some to-do’s aside for a season. Lead me in wisdom in choosing who I share with and what I set aside. I ask this of the One who knows the depth of my neediness and loves me more than anyone. In Jesus name. Amen. 

I am starting to tell people that I am fragile, maybe not using that word, but by saying “I can’t” or “I need.” I am telling the Lord. I need to take care of myself, it is a way to honor the Lord. He gave us our bodies and this life as a gift. Won’t you share your fragility? Be authentic. Be open about where you are at. Be Present over Perfect.

 

 

The Weight of Life

Are you seemingly sinking under the weight of life?

I have been doing a Kim Avery online-Bible study titled Life Overflowing, it is on the book of Ephesians. It’s an excellent study, with audio lessons and a worksheet for note-taking for each lesson. I was writing about it in my journal and inadvertently wrote “Life Overwhelming” instead of Life Overflowing. Those kind of moments help you to see where you are really at in life. We get so caught up in our lives, sometimes we don’t even realize how it is all affecting us.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present over Perfect, tells about how she found herself at the point of hating her life. She had pushed and pushed, hustled and hustled. She tried to do everything to live up to expectations, and to fulfill obligations, and she came to the place of being exhausted as well as often sick. The weight of life had become too heavy for her.

Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you have too many things packed into your days; too much to do, too many people to meet with, too much help to give, and an overload of work to accomplish. What is the bottom line? Shauna came to realize that she was trying to make things perfect, and trying to be the responsible one”” who could handle everything. She also found that her striving stemmed from a “cavernous ache” inside of her heart. It was about her need to be loved, so she tried to earn love that she didn’t feel she could receive apart from doing.

God’s love is unconditional. We are not loved by God because of anything we do or have done. He loves us because He created us. He wants a relationship with us. He loves us even though He knows our limitations.

You would think knowing these truths would help us to recognize that the pressure is off, but that often is not the case. We go on striving to find satisfaction within by doing more and more.

We end up believing the Enemy’s lies and then try to fill the hole inside with personal attempts to get love by doing.

All too often we try to impress others with our busyness, and our self-importance. Shauna explains how she chose to change that in her life. We can also choose to make changes. Like Shauna, we can make an intentional effort in our lives to encourage each other to find rest. We can find special ways to support one another. We can help others to see that they do not need to do more and more in their lives.

Shauna demonstrates the importance of knowing the Father’s love so that you no longer need to prove yourself.  When we know God’s love, we learn to love self in healthy ways and then show respect for others.

Reading about this led me to ask myself some questions, questions that I want to share with you for you to also contemplate. It begins by evaluating where you are in the struggle for perfection and also recognizing how weighed down you feel. So consider the following. I found that setting aside some time to journal really helped me.

  • Where are you finding your worth? Is your worth found in your accomplishments or in your busyness?
  • Is there something you are trying to prove?
  • What is the “cavernous ache” within you saying?
  • What is the need deep inside?
  • Who can you reach out to for help? Who can share the weight of life with you? Who can help you carry the heavy burdens of your life?
  • What do your feelings and response to life say about your relationship with the Lord?
  • Is His love enough? What do you need to talk with Him about?

These are important and difficult questions, some of which are only answered over much time and contemplation. But the answers can help you make important changes.

We have to decide what really matters. Each decision Shauna needed to make led her to consider two things. She began to base her decisions about how she would answer people’s requests for her to do something by checking to see if the choice at hand fit into her purpose and secondly, if it would bring her love. There was no more settling for an unsatisfying substitute in striving.

She discovered that often the things she pushed herself to do had not been about her purpose, and more often than not, she did not find love in the end. Instead, she found herself exhausted and feeling sick.  

The should’s, the have-to’s, the people-pleasing choices do not bring us love. They lead to resentment. They lead us to feel like we are carrying around boulders. There are only 24 hours in a day and we can only accomplish so much. What are the boulders in your life? What is weighing you down? Think about it and take it to the Lord in prayer.

  • We can speak honestly about where we are with our Heavenly Father. He knows.
  • We can come to Him with our worn-out lives and seek Him for wisdom and help.
  • We can find His love to fill the emptiness within to help keep us from striving in life.

And most importantly, we can find refreshment in His presence and in staying present in our lives.

I hope that you will find the refreshment our Heavenly Father longs for you to have in knowing the depths of His love for you.