Back in the 1980s, a new church started in the town where I lived. As a reporter for the local paper, I’d interviewed the new pastor and was compelled to support him and his wife on their first meeting with the community. At one of the first of many Singsperations, I was introduced to a different form of praise songs. I’d come from a traditional, hymn singing church, and although I listened to contemporary Christian music on the radio, somehow these praise songs reached me in a different way. Hymns still touch me in a way no other music can because it was in the midst of a hymn that I recognized in a much deeper way just who Christ was, not only to the world but to me. But this “new” style of worship in music caught hold of me. I can still remember the first song the pastor and his worship team sang. We Sing A Sacrifice Of Praise. But it became more than a song in the 17 years I came to worship and serve at this little church on the hill. It became a theme for my life.
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:14-16
In the good times, in the difficult times, in the joy and the sorrow, praise was the glue that held me together. Not only in the church community, but at work, with family, with friends – you know, life. I learned the importance of acknowledging God in all things, that God is worthy of praise; even if it feels like broken praise when the body is suffering, the heart is broken, and there is no understanding of why things can happen as they do. To praise through it all, to sacrifice to all Jesus has done, all God the Father has given, and for the comfort and guidance offered through His Holy Spirit, is to live. To bring a sacrifice of praise because He is pleased in the sacrifice, knowing how much my heart wants desperately to please Almighty God, I willingly bring him praise.
And yes, I eventually ended up on the platform as part of the worship team. That is another story that maybe I’ll tell someday. For now, please know that there is power in our praise. Power in putting God higher than anything we are dealing with, the power to pull us out of any pit, to land us on firm ground, to give us a song to sing.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.-Psalm 40:1-3
A sacrifice of praise. Deliverance. My testimony, dear friends.
Next blog post: Sounds, smells, and sights
Where’s the fun? How can sitting in front of a computer screen for hours writing about God and people and life – how can that be fun? How can you spend hours doing online seminary studies and consider it fun? How can you find fun in doing so many things you do all alone?
Well, foremost, I’m not alone. The Lord is always with me. And also, I am who God created me to be, and I’m more of an introvert and am comfortable being alone a lot of the time. I don’t enjoy shopping, so online shopping works great for me. I do love live theatre, not movie theaters, but rarely go. Eating out is okay, but only once in a while. I love people, I love spending time with them, but my loving people is not contingent on my being with them a lot. I used to be involved in all kinds of church activities, and it was a great time of growth in my life, but unless the Lord requires it of me again, I’m content to commit to one thing in the church above the normal activities, give it my best, have fun doing it, and continue living the life I consider fun.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” – Colossians 3:17
We all get asked why in the world the things we do are considered fun. Sometimes people are earnestly trying to understand us better. Some are being sarcastic. Some are putting us in categories based on their own labeling system. Some are genuinely concerned because, in their lack of understanding, they think there is something wrong and feel a need to correct the very things in our lives we find fun.
Which is why it’s good to assure folks that what seems like a boring, dull life is really okay and that we are all parts of the body of Christ, and being an earlobe may not be as exciting as being an eye, but it still has a purpose.
I know my life may not be your life, and the things that you consider fun are worlds apart from mine. That’s more than okay. Please, have fun. God wants us to find joy in the life we’ve been given. Just remember, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” – 1 Corinthians 8:9
And always give thanks for the good times you’ve had, because all good things come from God. All. Good. Things.
Next blog: The sacrifice of praise
Why has always been a word that comes very quickly to mind, even if I don’t speak it. I like to tell myself that it is natural curiosity, the researcher in me, the wanna-be scientist buried deep inside of me, the former journalist looking for truth…
Yeah. Okay. Or maybe, just maybe it is the rebellious child who is frightened, or discouraged, or leery of something that is about to happen that she really, really, doesn’t want to be a part of. Maybe you’ve been there, that point when the question becomes an emotional But Why? instead of just Why?
I did a quick look on a Bible search site and found that in the whole Bible (ESV) just the word Why is noted 432 times. I was surprised. I thought the use of the word would be more frequent. I discovered that some 289 times it can be found in the Old Testament; 143 in the New Testament. On reading through some of the cited verses, I clearly could see my own various attitudes when it came to asking Why?
So now, the question is, why But Why? Something had to lead up to this blog post, right? Yeah. Because sometimes it goes far beyond those things we want to understand in order to control. We see world-wide that people are dying violent deaths, and people are being diagnosed with terminal diseases. We see and know of people who look into what used to be their well-stocked pantries and now are seeing just empty shelves; if they still have a home that once had a pantry. As the rain comes down, and the flash flooding is threatening, worried eyes are on the rivers in the Midwest, wondering when they will flood again. We discover yet another job application has been denied, leaving more weeks ahead with no money coming in, or we ache with the knowledge that our children are twisted up in a dangerous world where truth and lies are confused and intertwined.
I’m sure everyone has lifted frustrated hands, frustrated eyes skyward and muttered, screamed, or just silently voiced But Why? Even those who don’t believe an answer is there. Even those who don’t believe that there is anyone who hears and cares.
But God hears, in whatever form you ask. He not only hears, He listens to the depth of emotion behind the But Why? Not because He needs to hear it to know, He knows everything already, but because sometimes we are so bottled up with emotion we need to express it to find release. He understands, and in the process of us asking our questions, He desires that we are able to come to recognize just how much He does care. No, we don’t always get a direct answer. Sometimes when we do get an answer it isn’t one we like. But, as believers, if we trust in His Sovereignty, understand that His plan is solid, sure, and for our ultimate good, then we can accept that we don’t always have to understand. That as long as we trust Him, and the more we understand who He is, the less we’ll find ourselves asking But Why?
More and more I am finding this true in my life. Sometimes I just sigh, admit I just don’t get it, affirm my trust in Him, and go on. Sometimes it takes much more than a sigh. Especially when it comes to the hard, hurtful things. Still, I believe that whatever happens here and now on this Earth is temporary. A place to learn and grow and finally, when the time is right, to be with Him. Forever. Forever in a new world, where there is peace and order and righteousness.
Why do I believe that? Because He said so and by faith, I believe. In the years I’ve studied the Bible I have come to understand and rejoice in the reality that this inspired Word of God is full of history, testimonies, and promises of the Kingdom of God, both here and to come, that will guide us through whatever meets us head-on. I know there will always be a But Why? when the child in me rises. But, like a child, I can ultimately look at the Father and know His love and accept His direction because He is much wiser than I could ever hope to be, and I am confident He has my best at heart.
That doesn’t mean the pain in the world ceases to impact me. The Christian life was promised trial and tribulation, but it is a life that can be lived in His peace. The impact of the pain and distress I see on a daily basis draws me nearer to my Lord to pray for what I see, what I hear, what I know to be horrific burdens some people carry. What I also know is that some people who have walked through some of those terrible times in their lives are the very people used by God to minister to others.
There is a plan. Not only do I want to believe it, but I have to believe it. Especially on those days when my human frailty calls out But Why?
Next blog: Time to go.