Thursday, October 23, 2003

I Praise God For . . . .

Psalm 22:3 says, “Yet you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” This verse moves me so much. I find it awesome to think that our praises are the very throne of God. So often it can become so easy to feel lost from God’s presence, like God isn’t there or is far away. I have learned (the hard way) that nothing brings Jesus, and the power and presence of God, closer than praising Him. It is often referred to as the “sacrifice” of praise, because sometimes we need to praise God when we don’t want to and don’t feel like it. Sometimes praising God seems impossible because we feel like the whole world is falling down around us and there doesn’t look like anything praiseworthy exists. But nothing has the power to lift us above our circumstances like praise.

I praise God for bringing me back to Kentucky and allowing me to minister in a setting that I deeply love. I praise God for this old house and facility, and all of the memories these walls hold for so many. I praise God for those (students, directors, others) who have kept these walls standing for almost 50 years. I praise God for the gorgeous autumn weather we are having. I praise God for this computer that helps me get my work done. I praise God for Brenda, our treasurer who cheerfully takes over the financial stuff that ties me in knots. I praise God for the joy of students who just like to be together. I praise God for all of the things we have laughed about. I praise God that our volleyball team played well together and finished the season far better than last year. I praise God for all the times we go out to eat after worship. I praise God for songs that express what my heart feels during worship. I praise God for friendships that make this place a home. I praise God for trees, and grass, and surprises, and a roof over my head, and food to eat, and people to laugh with, and ideas, and new experiences, and failures that teach me something, and . . . .

How would you finish it? What do you praise God for? When was the last time you took a moment to remember and say thank you for the blessings in your life? It is something that is easily forgotten. But nothing will change your day more. Because when we are lifting our voices and hearts in praise, the Lord our God draws close. And we are reminded once again that all the help we ever need is found in that beautiful name, Jesus.

Know that I keep you all in my prayers. I thank God for each of you.


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Take a Vacation from Worry!

God has been so good to me lately. Those of you who have known me for a while know how I tend to worry about EVERYTHING. This semester has been particularly bad. But this week I have felt so at peace. It is almost as if the words of encouragement I share with so many others has finally begun to sink in: God really is bigger than all our problems and worries. What a miracle of God’s grace. If you could see me now you would get to observe my “happy dance.”

For some reason, I am enjoying things more. Just allowing the day to unfold in its own way. Just hanging out with Jesus and letting Him handle my doubts and troubles. I guess I decided, unbeknownst to myself, that I would take a vacation from worrying.

How about you? Would you like a vacation from worrying? Did you know you can ask someone else to fill in for you in the worrying department so you can skip off to a spiritual club med? God has assigned us our own personal worry wart that will worry on our behalf and let us off the hook.

I am not crazy. Check out Romans 8:24-27: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Cool, huh! This is our birth-right as Christians. The moment we were born-again and accepted Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior, we were given access to His Spirit who worries for us so we don’t have to. And the Spirit’s worry (or interceding, praying, on our behalf) gets things done where our worrying goes nowhere. If you don’t know if Jesus is in your heart, e-mail me. We can take care of that.

So how do we access this wonderful birth-right in Christ? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Tell Jesus all about it, about everything that is on your mind. And then thank Him for being equipped to handle your needs. Thank Him for being creator of the Universe and creator of you. Thank Him for loving you lots. And then just let it go. If it comes back, ask for more help, thank Him some more, and go do something restful. He’s seen a lot since the beginning of the world. We won’t be able to surprise Him or catch Him unprepared to take care of our situations.

I praise Jesus that He has helped me experience this freedom and joy this week. I give Him all the credit. I pray He is making that same freedom a reality for you, even as you read this. Just let Him work; you’ll be glad you did.



Thursday, October 09, 2003

Realistic Expectations?

Okay, so it’s the middle of the semester and there are more things to do than time to do them in. It can be very discouraging and frustrating. I have found myself in places of discouragement and frustration this year also. I am beginning to understand that it is related to my expectations. They are too high. Sometimes our levels of discontent are directly related to the choices we make or the way we perceive our circumstances. For example, I have often found myself very overwhelmed because I got too involved in too many things and made too many commitments that left no breathing room. In those cases I feel like I am suffocating, and the air in the room is running out. What I am learning to do is to choose better, to have more realistic expectations of myself and others, and to prioritize my commitments by those things in my life that are most important to me.

I want to challenge you to take a moment to consider what is most important to you. No, not what is important to your professors, your friends, your parents, your pastor. I want you to look deeply into your own heart and see what has the most significance to you. Now look at your life as you are living it now. Are you spending your time on what is most important to you? Or is your time being eaten up by things that aren’t the most important to you? It seems that I allow worrying to eat up most of my time. And unrealistic expectations. Some things that I want to happen now just can’t because they aren’t ready. They have to develop.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I hear this saying that as we seek the Lord and spend time loving Him, He will show us what is really important. We will come to understand what is most important and will find help in giving time to those things. Join me in spending time with Jesus so he can rearrange our time. We have nothing to loose, and so much to gain. Hear these gracious words as if Jesus is speaking them directly to you (because He is): “Come unto me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).