Tag: praise

What Does a “Sacrifice of Praise” Look Like on Thanksgiving?

It’s Thanksgiving morning and I have much to be grateful for. We are surrounded by extended family and daughter Katy from D.C. showed up to surprise us yesterday.

But part of a verse has been running through my head this Thanksgiving week.

“offer a sacrifice of praise”

Like I’m watching an unsteady toddler, tipsy and bumping an ottoman then lurching into a chair, I feel like I want to catch this verse and make it safer.

Last night as we sang worship hymns I thought of friends and family for whom praise may be difficult. If I read this verse in other circumstances I would be decidedly ticked off at God.

I think of…

Friends in a rocky marriage

Those mourning loss of loved ones

A dear one with ALS

I would be like, “SACRIFICE?? MORE SACRIFICE??”

How are they praising God this Thanksgiving? I don’t believe “a sacrifice of praise” means inauthenticity. Not a “fake it til you make it” deal. So what is the genuine response of “a sacrifice of praise”

Here’s the context.

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Hebrews 13:14-16

Although “fake it til you make it” doesn’t seem Jesus-y, it does seem there’s a call to move past our gut emotional response to circumstances, and instead choose the discipline of “in spite of”.

  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God because I can look forward to eternity with Him. (it is through Jesus we can do this)
  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God for His past faithfulness.
  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God for His character daily – He will never leave me. He redeems my sin. He loves me no matter what.

Here’s the thing, though… It’s not just my friends in challenging situations who may struggle with a “sacrifice of praise.” Maybe it’s you or me, in a season when things are pretty hunky dory.

One definition of sacrifice is: an act of offering to a deity something precious.

One thing that is precious to us is our sense of self-sufficiency, our autonomy. It’s the root of our sin, right? Like the lurching toddler above, we want to declare “I do it myself!”

Especially when things are going well, for some of us, “a sacrifice of praise” may be laying aside our pride and admitting “All that I am and all that I have come from You Lord. I praise You because You alone are worthy.” 

In the service last night we sang the hymn that has become our family’s. I pictured many friends and family as I sang the last stanza:

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide’

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, 

Blessings all mine with ten-thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy had hath provided –

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Who is Disadvantaged at Thanksgiving?

I got home from Zambia Friday afternoon, so happy to be back in my cozy home with a soft bed.

When I left, the trees were painted glorious and Halloween was immanent.  When I returned the trees were sad and bare, the sky gray, and Thanksgiving almost upon us. Continue reading

The With-God Life

I recorded this conversation in 2002 when Maggie, like Alexander, had had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Me, trying to comfort Maggie: Remember sweetie, the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

Maggie: Mom, I’ve just had a bad week, I haven’t been trampled by a horse!

Me: Ok, got it.  Ratchet back the hyper-spiritualizing.

Recently I’ve circled back to Psalm 34 where that verse is found.  It’s a “praise-the-Lord-even-if-I’m-dying” Psalm, because God is present.  It’s a good reminder Psalm.  God has used it in my life in some of the lowest times (can you tell from all the scribbling and times I’ve dated it?)photo-149

But on other days I love it that we also have the “crap-life-sucks-and-never-will-get-better-so-let’s-kick-ass” Psalms.

Psalm 35, for example Continue reading

What to do When You’re Stuck, part one

Years ago, when we were newly married and just learning to play golf, my sisters-in-law and I were on a course together while our husbands played ahead of us.

Other than sister-in-law, Rose hitting a tree and having the ball careen back over her head, farther away from the hole than where she started, the day might have been uneventful except that sister-in-law Betsy had the bright idea of driving the golf cart through a sand trap.

Golf carts, in case you were wondering, are not dune buggies.  Their wheels spin like the blades of a fan – a lot of movement, but no forward motion.

I’ve been been thinking of that spinning-wheel-spitting-sand-stuckness lately because that’s the way I’ve been feeling.  

Stuck is not a feeling unique to me.  If you’re not there now, you probably have been.

  • Maybe you’re stuck in a job you don’t like.
  • Stuck in a relationship that’s not healthy.
  • Stuck in a financial hole.
  • Stuck with a problem that seems unsolvable.
  • Maybe doors seem to be closing and you can’t find the proverbial open window.  They’re all closed too.

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In my personal “stuckness” I’ve been re-reading Nehemiah and trying to apply some principles from his life.

Nehemiah is the guy who was wrecked by the report he received in exile that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.  He is the leader who God uses to oversee the rebuilding of the walls.  Look at just a few verses from the book of Nehemiah:

“I prayed before the God of heaven. THEN I said…”

“I prayed to the God of heaven AND I answered the king…”

“We prayed to our God AND posted a guard…”

Here’s the thing that strikes me most deeply:

Nehemiah never acted without praying and never prayed without acting. 

For some of us, our tendency is to major on problem-solving.  Strive, fix, do, without inquiring or submitting or listening for the counsel of the Know-it-all-Guy we say we want to give control to.  So we spin our wheels often digging in deeper in the sand.

For others, the temptation is to do a lot of praying and reflecting and “put it in God’s hands” assuming that means He’ll magically do all the work and we can go sit in the lawn chair with some ice tea, thank you very much.  Abandon the golf cart for someone else to deal with, as it were.

I tend to fall into the first camp – fire, ready, aim (to use a different metaphor).  So here’s what trying to apply this Nehemiah principle is looking like these days in my life:

I pray early each morning.  And by that I mean I rant at God a little bit in my journal, telling Him about all the stuckness in my life, in case He hasn’t been paying attention.

And then I ask Him what He’s going to do about it, and what He wants me to do about it.

And then I try to pay attention to the constructive choices I can make, circling back to God to say “So what do you think about THAT?  Whatcha gonna do now?  And how close are we to getting out of this sand trap?”

Maybe as you pray, the action God will prompt you to do is to get counseling, or take a Financial Peace class, or apply for a job, or find a mentor.  

PRAY, ACT, REPEAT.

If only that was the magic formula.

But wait!  There’s more!  Next post…

In what ways have you been (or are you) stuck?  What helped?

 

 

When You See it and When You Don’t

Our daughter Maggie got engaged last weekend.

We exclaim, “Oh, yes!”  We can clearly see God’s faithfulness, His provision, His plan.  And we sing, like it’s New Year’s Eve, with confetti and streamers and hugs

Great is Thy faithfulness O God our Father.”

Two new babies were born to friends this week.  And we sing

“Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.”

A delightful surprise package of gifts appeared on our back step.

Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides.”

A dear friend was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer.  And it’s hard to see, but we try to sing

“Strength for today…”

The homeless guys still show up on our corner every day, and we have loved ones who are still prodigals, and others who are single, or childless and don’t want to be.  We want to sing a lovely future into their lives.

 “and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other.  Our voices waver a bit…

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.”

Years ago we took the girls on a family vacation to Colorado.  They were little and excited.  It was the first time they would see the mountains.

But Maggie couldn’t.  She kept saying, “I.  Do.  Not.  See. Them!”

Continue reading

ABC’s of Praise in Pictures

The other day I was walking in a “Holy Place”.  I hadn’t been there in awhile.  It’s a path around a lake I walked daily for years.

And along that path God has soaked up a heck of a lot of tears.  Listened patiently to my rants.  Grieved over my anguished cries of confusion.  And accepted my praise with a smile I think.

And in the patches of Godlight along the path He prompted something in me.  Lately it seems God has been reiterating the theme word, “specific”.  As in spell it out kid.  As in not the Cliff Notes version.

Continue reading

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