Worship Wednesday

On my commute home from work tonight, I heard a woman who had called into K-Love say that she was declaring Wednesday as “Worship Wednesday.” She was going to take  5 minutes of her Wednesday to simply worship God…to thank Him for all He is doing in her life.

What a great idea. No prayers of God…please I need this but simply taking time to reflect and thank God.

What am I thankful for today?

I am thankful, God, for the lessons You are teaching me in these moments of quietness without my cellphone. I am thankful for reading books again when I may have mindlessly flipped through apps on my cellphone.

I am thankful for really good sleep last night after working a 3rd shift with my staff.

I am thankful for resisting the temptation to drink pop today.

I am thankful for friends and family who listen and who care.

I am thankful for a great Christian resource I found on anxiety.

I am thankful for continued progress step by step, day by day in this work life balance.

I am thankful for a job that I love despite its challenges. I am thankful for all the ways You are using it to grow me.

Most of all, God, I am thankful that You love me despite my flaws, my imperfections, my mistakes…You love me for simply being me.

work-for-the-lord

The Gift of Christmas Year Round

Today is the day after Christmas. I hope you enjoyed a blessed Christmas celebration amongst family and friends. In a few short hours, I will be on my way to yet another family Christmas celebration. Right now, I am enjoying the quiet by the Christmas tree as the rest of my family sleeps.

So much hype, anticipation, and expectation lead up to Christmas. It can result in feelings of let down after the excitement of the day is over. I want to share with you some reflections from Christmas Eve services this year that speak to my heart of the gift of Christmas year round.

Since our home church does not have a Christmas Eve service, our family has always chosen to attend Christmas Eve services at a local church. We used to attend a beautiful musical service at a church close to our home where we could walk. Although the service was beautiful and walking home in softly falling snow was magical on Christmas Eve, I admit I can no longer stay up until after midnight on Christmas Eve especially since I always work a full day on Christmas Eve. This year, since Christmas Eve was on Saturday and I did not have to work, we opted to attend an earlier service at a church we have never attended. I am so glad we did.

The Christmas story does not change. The meaning of its message does not change. I believe, though, that there are different angles and different personal messages that God may have for us to hear in a different light. This year, that very thing happened to me as the pastor emphasized the ordinary in the extraordinary events of that night.

The pastor began the message sharing about some homeless men in a rural area. As he journeyed deeper into his message, these homeless men became the shepherds on that night so long ago in Bethlehem. He shared the Christmas story message in Luke chapter 2, and about God’s favor resting upon these men, the lowliest in society. He also shared how God chose to use Mary and Joseph, common citizens, as well as the wise men who were wealthy and well-respected men in their society. The point…God uses all people. As the message continued, he highlighted and emphasized Luke 2:20…Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard.

The shepherds had been blessed with the gift of a front row seat with backstage passes to the greatest event of time, yet they did not leave that manger scene with a sense of entitlement. They returned to their flocks. As the pastor reflected…God did not make them smell better, did not elevate their position in society, did not shower them with financial blessings…rather they returned to their flocks of sheep with changed hearts full of praise and love for God and His gift to them.

When you look at the Christmas story through the eyes of the shepherds, you can’t help but acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. His way is not the way of the world. God does not value the things that the world values. He does not define self-worth and success through professions, bank account balances, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, our titles, our mistakes, or our failures. Our worth rests in Him. Whether we are tending His flocks of sheep or leading an organization as CEO with integrity, God loves us all the same. His gift is available to every single person at Christmas and every single day.

May His joy of this season live on every single day in your heart and life.

shepherds

The Simple Things 

Sometimes, it is the simplest things that serve as reminders of God’s faithfulness and blessings in our lives.

Like…a special verse in my devotional this morning on the one year anniversary of this job where I strongly believe God has called me

Or…an amazing staff meeting/Christmas party and a bag of gifts from my staff… completely unexpected… totally humbling 

And… realizing that wow, I am calm…small victories over struggles with anxiety 
The beauty of the Christmas tree, my son wanting to help me just because, a text from my daughter and best friend, my husband asking how my day was…

Simple things yet these simple things are reminders of God’s love and His care for me.

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, sometimes the simple things can bring us back to focus on what really matters. It’s not the presents under the tree, the amount of money in our bank account, or even if we didn’t accomplish one single New Years resolution set months ago.

Rather, what matters in life is the people whose lives we impact and whose lives impact ours. It is trusting God with our hopes, dreams, fears…our everything. It is opening our eyes enough to see the joy and His tender care in the simple yet profound things in everyday life.

Take time to notice, savor, and reflect on the simple things.

What simple things are most treasured by you?

A melting soul…

Anxiety is a tricky thing.

A simple thought can quickly escalate into a full blown fear. The what  ifs  grow into a vast array of irrational fears and our minds believe that something horrible is on the horizon.

I spend a lot of time in the Psalms. I came across a passage in Psalm 107 in the NKJV that describes for me the power anxiety tries to have over me.

…their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Psalm 107:26-27 

When something is melting, unless someone intervenes, it will continue to melt. An ice cube on a sidewalk on a hot August day does not stand a chance.

When I am experiencing an anxiety attack, that is how I feel…like my soul is melting. Everything feels out of control. 

What am I learning?

Most of life is out of my control. And, that’s a good thing. It takes a lot of pressure off of me and reminds me to focus on letting God be in control.

Psalm 107 is all about giving thanks. It goes on to read…

Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:28-31

I love this passage. They realize they are in trouble so they cry out to God. He listens and calms the storm. He quiets their melting soul and brings them to a place of rest and safety.

Although my circumstances may not change, I trust that when I cry out to God, He will calm and quiet my anxious, melting soul. He provides. He protects. He quiets the storms within us with His peace.

Focusing on His goodness and mercy and thanking Him for taking care of me helps me focus on who is in control. 
Four times in Psalm 107 it shares that the people cried out to the Lord in their troubles and He delivered them out of their distresses. He delivered his people and He is still in the business of delivering us from our distresses. Sometimes, not as quickly as we would like and often not in ways we anticipated, but He listens and He delivers. 

Our response should be praise… replace a melting, anxious soul with a soul spilling over in gratitude.

This advent season as we prepare for Christmas, remember that God can calm an anxious, melting soul. 

Quiet yourself before Him.

Looking Back

Sometimes, we become anxious about the future. Other times, we dwell on the past. We may wish things were the way they once were or we might perseverate on how we could have done something differently.

I have been working through my anxiety struggles. I find that I worry about the future…I play over past events over and over. Neither one of these are healthy. While self reflection is essential for personal growth and planning for the future is responsible, anxiety can wedge its way in quickly. 

I am learning to combat fear and anxiety with prayer and Scripture. Another thing that is extremely helpful to keep my focus where it needs to be is by consciously choosing an attitude of gratitude.

One of my favorite verses is this one:

Do not worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Philippians 4:6

I have shared about how I like to break down that verse and pray through all the things weighing heavy on my mind and heart. Big and small. 

It is in this verse that I am reminded that looking back on the past can be a really good idea.

 When we take a moment to reflect on all the ways God has answered our cries for help, carried us through trials and tribulations, and answered our prayers with grace in ways we could not have imagined, then there is a sense of peace and reassurance that He will not forsake us now through these present day struggles.

Another important lesson in this is the attitude of gratitude. A heart full of gratitude changes everything.

Gratitude has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with who God is.

We praise Him because of who He is. We trust He will carry us through this journey called life.
This Thanksgiving season, I’m not sure what you are struggling with or if your heart is heavy or overflowing with joy. Maybe your path is rocky and uncertain and the way ahead so unclear. Take a moment and look back. Remember how God has carried you before. Focus on His goodness. Share with others what you are grateful for. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Trust that God has greater things in store than you can imagine. 
When we can’t see the road ahead and we choose to trust and be thankful along the way despite the twists and turns, we realize how much He can bless our mess when we have a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you who take a few minutes of your day to read my reflections. 
Choose gratitude. ♥