Compassion: a definition

If you have noticed, I put a “Word of the Year” box over on my sidebar, there is also a link that will direct you to all my Word of the Year Posts as we journey through this year working on the things God is laying on our hearts. I’d love to hear about your Word of the Year Journey’s too…so if you blog about your word of the year and don’t think I’ll see it, please share a link with me!

I looked up a definition for my word this year which is COMPASSION.

Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I learned something tonight about compassion. Every definition I found of this word (I read 6 of them tonight, please share with me if you find one elsewhere that doesn’t contain this!) related to the feeling you have for someone who is suffering. Now, when I originally chose this word, I wasn’t thinking only of those around me who are suffering. I felt the Lord was telling me that there were those in my life who I was not compassionate towards…but it didn’t necessarily mean they were suffering? So, was I defining this word incorrectly in my own mind?

Regardless, I’m going to stick with my word. One thing that really, really drew me to this word was the consistent mention of Jesus’ compassion on those He encountered in scriptures. Over and over again I would read that “and Jesus had compassion on them.”

It didn’t matter who they were. It didn’t matter where they had been. It didn’t matter what they had done. He had compassion. That is what I want. That compassion for others that isn’t blinded by anything they have said or done. Compassion from a heart that is so full of God that I don’t focus on the sin, weaknesses or faults of others.

In order to pray and meditate on what God’s word says to me about compassion, I am going to choose to memorize verses this year that are about compassion. The first verse I’m going to memorize is a continuation of a passage that I already started memorizing with our small group a few months ago. Here is the passage, I’ll be taking it one verse at a time, and praying that as I hide God’s word in my heart He would change me, mold me and give me a heart of compassion, grace, kindness and love.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17

Word for the Year ~ 2009

Last year some ladies on a message board I look at chose something called a “word for the year.” What they did was pray about the direction God was leading them into…thought about an area of their life that especially needed focus, and chose a word based on those things. This would could be something that you want to work on, something that the Lord is nudging you to do, something you want to dedicate yourself to doing.

The ladies chose some interesting words. Some of the words I have seen chosen are restoration, patience, kindness, devotion, perseverance, reconciliation, fellowship. You get the point.

Last year I did not participate in this idea, but this year I’m feeling impressed to do so. I think for me, it will be neat to have “starting point” in my walk with God for the new year. This will give me something to pray about…something to study in my Bible…something to think and meditate on. I’ve been thinking about and praying about what the Lord wants to work in my heart. I hope to post regularly about what God is teaching me about this word for 2009.

So…my word for 2009. Drum roll, please.

Compassion.

Now, even recently I have had people tell me they think I am compassionate. And, towards certain things/people I am. I have a heart for the poor and needy, I have a heart for missions, I have a heart for children in bad situations.

However, the Lord has revealed to me in the past few weeks that there is an area in my heart that is not full of compassion. This is hard for me to admit, because it isn’t pretty. But, I have a hard time having compassion on those that have hurt me in the past. Ugg…I don’t even like to admit that. But, it is true. The Lord has revealed to me several situations in my life where I have had a lack of compassion. It has been hard for me to see this in myself…but I know it is there.

Along with compassion, another word that goes along with this situation in my life is grace. I have a hard time extending grace in difficult relationships or situations. The Lord has reminded me how time and time again, He offers those in scripture (and me) this unconditional grace and love. He loved the baddest of the bad. He had mercy on the prodigal son.

He had mercy on me. And that is where my heart kind of skips a beat. How dare I thank God for that grace that He bestows so freely on me, yet withhold it in my heart towards others? At the same time, I want to acknowledge that this is very hard for me. The hurts in my heart run deep. I have a hard time forgetting. Yet, I know my Lord does not.

So, for these reasons I have chosen the word compassion. I want to have compassion in my heart towards all in my life, not just those who make me happy. I want to extend grace when grace is not deserved or earned. I want to have a true and genuine love in my heart that goes beyond what my wants and needs, because it isn’t about me.

Lord, help me. I can’t do this without You. But, I want to be more like You. And this is just one more area in my life that you are revealing to me that is ugly. Make me more like You…more compassionate…more full of grace.

Prayers of Adoration

One Sunday morning, our pastor opened our service by having us pray prayers of adoration to God going through each letter of the alphabet. This unique way of praying has stuck with me…and I think it would be neat to just do this periodically. So many times I have my list of prayer requests to bring before God, but in my selfishness I forget to praise and adore Him.

A ~ awesome

B ~ beautiful

C ~ cleansing

D ~ defending

E ~ everlasting

F ~ Father

G ~ good

H ~ my Help

I ~ immovable

J ~ just

K ~ King

L ~ full of LOVE

M ~ merciful

N ~ never-ending

O ~ omnipresent

P ~ Prince of Peace

Q ~ quiets me with His love

R ~ reigning over all

S ~ sufficient

T ~ trustworthy

U ~ understanding

V ~ victorious

W ~ welcomes me

X ~ eXalted on high

Y ~ yearned for

Z ~ Zealous in his love for me

My Birthday Blessings

Saturday, December 6th is the day that God chose to bring me into this world 32 years ago. I thought that I would take a few minutes to reflect on the many gifts, blessings and lessons He has taught me thus far in my life. I know I have so many more lessons to come…but I am so thankful for where God has brought me…the good and the bad…the hard times and the joyous times. So, here are my 32 blessings…(oh my goodness, I didn’t mean for this to get so long!! You might have to take a few days to read this…if you make it through at all!)

Bingo Number 32 by Leo Reynolds.

1. First of all, I am thankful for my parents. Growing up (especially as a teen) I wasn’t the nicest to my parents…and I am thankful to say that today they hold no grudges! My mom has been and continues to be such a servant to me. Someone once commented on my blog that they loved reading the comments made by “Nana.” Well, that is my mom…and if you go back and see the comments she has made on my blog, you will see just a glimpse of the blessing and encouragement she is to me. I want to mention my dad too…we haven’t always had the best relationship, but I am still thankful for his role in my life. God has used my dad to teach me many things about Himself…and for those lessons I am thankful. At this stage in my life, both of my parents are a HUGE source of help to me! They take my kids quite often, babysit with last minute notice, do my laundry, and just help me in more ways that I can mention. For the gift of my parents, I am thankful.

2. If I was starting at birth looking back on all my blessings…first I mentioned my parents, the next big influence would probably be a youth minister that I had in middle and high school…Steve Flowers. I give God the glory for bringing me to Him…and He used Steve in a major way in my life regarding my salvation. I remember thinking about Steve that I could truly see what being a Christian meant…what it meant to live for Jesus in everyday life. I thank God for showing me Himself through Steve.

3. The gift of my salvation…I truly believe that salvation and God’s saving grace on my life has been such a process. He is still in the process of saving me from myself…daily. I thank God that He saw fit to make me His child…to adopt me into His family. What a gift.

4. Another gift that I treasure greatly is my time spent at Carson-Newman. The years that I spend in college was a time of great learning for me, while I did learn educationally, mostly what I cling to are the spiritual lessons and growth that God gave me during this time. While at Carson Newman I found friends who taught me how to draw closer to God. Those friends taught me about prayer…about digging into God’s word to see what He had in store for me there. I cherish the eternal blessings that God brought my way during my college years.

5. After my undergraduate years I met the man who would become my husband. God brought me such a tremendous gift when He brought David into my life! David and I spent lots of time hanging out with our “gang” of friends from church…and lots of dates to walmart (ha!)…and 10 years later we still end up at walmart alot! We have been married a little over 8 years now and God has done so much in both of us. I started out as and continue to struggle with being a selfish wife…but God has blessed me with a patient husband. David is truly my better half…and God knew what He was doing when He put us together…that balance thing. David’s very laid back personality does wonders for my highly sensitve, emotional, roller coaster of feelings inside me. His patience to wait for things reins in my tendency to be impatient and impulsive. God has given me a great daddy for my kids as well…he plays with them, he truly does just about as much as I do when he is home! David also has such integrity and responsibility when it comes to his job. I am grateful and forever indebted to the Lord for this gift of marriage He has given me.

6. Shortly after we were married, we found out we were expecting Hannah Elizabeth. Truly, God was giving me the desires of my heart. All my life I had wanted to be a wife and mommy. He gave me alot more than I bargained for in Hannah!! Oh, Hannah brings me such joy!! Hannah also has brought me some hard lessons! She has taught me that this thing called motherhood is not going to be easy. Hannah has taught me that the things I thought I knew about children are not always true. Hannah has taught me patience and perseverence…though I certainly still have so far to go in both of those areas. Hannah is one of the most strong-willed children I have ever seen. (and remember I taught kindergarten, so I saw a lot of children!!) The Lord has used Hannah to show me the ugliness in my own heart…how impatient I can be…how much I have to learn about grace. I am sad to say, that I think I was too strict with Hannah in the beginning. How I wish I could go back and hold her more, not make her cry it out in her bed, not spank her so many times…but praise God, the grace of God covers a multitude of sins. Thankfully God’s grace is more than sufficient for Hannah as well as me. I’m sure I have scarred Hannah for life (just like we all are) but God has taught me so much about grace through her. Hannah is such a gift…her stubbornness and all. She is a joy to teach – loves reading, loves learning, loves drawing, loves all things crafts. God has blessed me so much with my firstborn.

7. Amazingly enough, 14 months after Hannah was born we were blessed with another daughter…Emily Grace. Emily was a fussy baby, but a truly pleasant and joyful child! She is my sensitive hearted girl. She loves animals. She loves to be a helper…I believe that God is molding her into a beautiful servant. Emily has had her moments…she can cry and scream like no other! But, that is just the ugly side to her sensitivity coming out…that sensitivity that I have learned probably comes from me…the beautiful thing inside her that I call a gift. Emily fulfills her role as middle child quite well…trying to be peacemaker in many situations. Emily is such a sweet and tender hearted little girl…I thank God for the gift of Emily.

8. And then 2 years later our boy finally arrived! Caleb David was born and his birth brought answers to my prayers for a boy! Oh I would have loved having 3 girls…but I longed for a boy and wanted that for David too. I can still remember getting tears in my eyes when at our 20 week ultrasound the nurse said “boy!” I was thrilled. And today, this boy still thrills my soul! What can I say? His blond hair and brown eyes melt me…and gosh, have I spoiled him! I say that with a little bit of fear and trepidation in my heart…watch out world, who knows what this boy will do! God took my regrets with Hannah and allowed me to cherish every moment with Caleb. I held him, I rocked him, I held him some more. I still have trouble putting him in his own bed at night after he has fallen asleep in ours. He is all boy. He loves taking the wheels off of any and all trucks/cars. He loves throwing balls. Everywhere. Anywhere. How I love my boy!!

9. As our kids have gotten to be school-aged, God has blessed me with the ability to homeschool our children. I truly look at this as such a GIFT!! As a kindergarten teacher before Hannah was born, I loved teaching! I can honestly say that though my students are a little more difficult, I still love teaching as much (or more) than I did before! I love planning out our unit studies, I love the hunt for a perfect craft, I love reading all these great children’s books, I loved hearing the girls as they sounded out those first words! What a privelege to spend my days with my children…though I fail everyday at keeping the right attitude and treating them as Jesus would, I still count it a huge joy to be with these 3 little people all day everyday!

10. Throughout my life God has blessed me with the huge gift of music. As a young child I began piano lessons, not knowing how much music would encourage me, minister to me and grow me throughout my lifetime! In college my degree was music. I have taught piano lessons. I have taught music at a Christian school. But, the biggest blessing that comes from music is the gift God gives me of worship. I just can’t explain how God has used worship as a blessing in my life…that He would take my meager offerings to Him and bless me in return?? Amazing! God has used worship to draw me to Himself, to help me feel His presence, to encourage me, to teach me, to show me more of Himself…and it is my earnest prayer and hope that as I share my music with others, I can allow Him to work through me to bring those same things about to those who are listening.

11. When I married David, I also married into a wonderful family. The Crabtree family was a family I admired from a few pews back in church. I was so excited to be a part of this family! Little did I know…HA! I say this in love, because now I am one of them…but God has taught me, through this family, the power of relationships in my life. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I have seen God at work and seen the power of forgiveness at work. I know collectively we each have so far to go…but God has taught me that a little love can go a long way. I am blessed to have this family as a part of my life…yes, all of them! Each and every one! Even though we may not always get along perfectly, they are a gift to me…a gift that I cherish greatly. The lessons God has taught me through these relationships are lessons I would not trade for anything…hard lessons, but God has shown me much about myself and is growing me…and that is my desire.

12. Along with my own immediate family and the family I married into, another life changing gift God has given me is the family of God. Growing up as a pastor’s child, I saw all along that Christians weren’t perfect. This was a good lesson for me to learn! The perfectionism in me tends to make me critical of others…and God has shown me time and time again that His children are all sinners…we are all saved by His grace alone…and we are all on this journey together. I went through a period a few years ago where I was very hurt by and felt abandoned by a church that I felt were like family to me. God has used that time in my life to change me, to mold me and to bring me to a place of total dependance on Him. I can’t say that I have perfected that complete dependance on Him, but what He has done for me is shown me that when I place my hope and dependance on other people…I will be let down. This isn’t a bad lesson that I have learned…it is so important. He has shown me that I have to put that hope, trust and dependance on Him. He has shown me that He truly is the faithful Friend. God has used the times I have felt lonely in my life to bring me closer to Him. How can I not be thankful for that? God has used the hard times I experience in “church” life to show me more of Himself. He is good. All the time.

13. One of the hardest gifts that I have had in my life is depression. I call it a gift, though. For many months I experienced feeling lower than ever before but would not, could not say the word “depression” outloud. I couldn’t say that I was depressed, I was just moody. Well, I am a moody person…but this time period in my life a few years ago was such a dark time. It wasn’t just a mood swing…I was in a dark place and could not pull myself out of it. God had to place other people in my life to help bring me out of this period…He used David, He used a marriage counselor and He used medication. I believe that with all my heart. I can look back on this time in my life with thankfulness now. I can say with true peace in my heart that God allowed this darkness in my heart for His purposes. I can say with gratitude in my heart that now, after having been through the valley, God has drawn me closer to Himself than ever before. He has shown me a small, tiny glimpse of the darkness and loneliness that Jesus felt. He has shown me that He uses suffering in our lives to draw us to Himself. He has shown me that going through dark times makes the joyous times so much more joyous. He has shown me that His grace is more important than I ever thought it was before I went through this time. I am so thankful for this journey…and thankful for where He has brought me.

14. After God restored the joy of my salvation, He led us to a new church. God has used this church to bring healing to me in many ways…especially through worship. God has used our worship leader (Kevin Cook,) the music that God places on his heart, the fellow worshippers in the Body and time spent worshiping to restore me. He has shown me and taught me about the sacrifice of praise. God has blessed me when I have lifted my hands, through tears, to praise Him. That is a gift.

15. The gift of God’s word…that love letter written to each of us…is a gift I have come to treasure greatly in the past few years. Through Bible studies with other believers, sitting under the teaching of Godly leaders and hearing people like Beth Moore speak, my love for God’s word has grown. God’s word is such a huge source of encouragement and comfort to me. The Psalms comfort my soul like nothing else. God has used His very written words to speak to me, encourage me, guide me, comfort me, teach me. His Word truly is life to me.

16. Another spiritual blessing that God is still growing in me is the power of prayer. I have always known the power and importance of prayer…but my prayer life has had ups and downs…like I’m sure it does for many. But, over the past year or more maybe, God has just blessed me so much by teaching me more about prayer. Something I learned from Beth Moore – praying the scriptures – has changed my prayer life! I feel like I can pray with more confidence because I am praying God’s very words…I know that what I am praying is in His will!! I don’t have to wonder if what I’m praying is pleasing to Him or if it is in His will. Prayer draws me to the heart of God. Prayer changes me. Prayer is a gift.

17. I consider the health of my children to be a huge blessing! I have read about, watched, wept over children suffering with horrible diseases. I know that it could still happen at any point…but for now, I am so thankful that my children have been healthy. I’m thankful that the biggest reasons for our doctor’s visits are stitches and ear infections.

18. God has gifted us by providing for us faithfully. David has always had stable jobs and for that I am so thankful. I have been burdened often for those around the world with so much less than we have. But those are worries that I haven’t had to have. Sure, I have dealt with wanting more. Unfortunately, I love shopping. But, God lovingly reminds me every so often of just how much He truly has blessed us! We have so much!

19. Our home has been a blessing to me! God has given me a truly content heart with being in our home. I admit, sometimes I see bigger and newer homes and wish away. But, generally speaking, I love the home that God has provided for us! It is the first house we bought…we have done so much work to it…and there is still so much to do! But I love our home. It is home.

20. I consider my blog a blessing! I started my blog just to see if I would enjoy it…and well, I have! I have learned that I enjoy writing…I’m not great or anything, I don’t consider myself a writer or anything…but I have learned alot about myself through the keeping up with this blog. Writing is easier for me than talking. Writing can be theraputic! I have always loved reading and now have learned that I enjoy writing as well! I have also met some precious ladies through the blogging world!!

Ok, sorry folks…I could not make it to 32. How sad is that? Seriously, though, I was starting to list things that just weren’t quite so meaningful and it just wasn’t the same…God has blessed me so much and I wanted to point out the those things in my life…so I’m going to take the lazy way out and just stop here. Sorry to disappoint, but I think this post was waaaaaaay too long anyway! I also want to add how *draining* this blog entry has been! I sat down to write out this simple thread and ended up deep in thought, teary eyed, lots of memories floating through my head…but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to count my blessings and name them one by one…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Our Bible lesson for today

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those that listen.”

I have been feeling very convicted about how we have been talking to each other in our home lately. Specifically, the word that the Lord has placed on my heart is “gracious.” I have not been gracious in my speech and I believe this is why my children are now being much uglier to each other with their words as well. I have been too harsh and lost my temper more than I would like to admit. When I am angry, the words that come out of my mouth are said in a mean or exasperated tone. Today, I confessed my sin to my kids and asked them to help me (and all of us) to work on this. We read and talked about this verse together.

We talked about what it means to “build each other up” and to “tear one another down.” We talked about specific examples for each category and are going to work together on finding words and phrases to build up and encourage one other. We need to practice!

Here are the phrases that my children thought of for each category.

Lord, we need your help. It is my desire to speak lovingly to my children…I want them to hear Your voice through me. But I confess that they don’t always hear that voice. I want that to change. But I need Your power in me to make that change…help me.

Tough Questions

Lord, have mercy on us that we even have to have these discussions with our kids. If any of you have any comments or things you might have said differently, please share…I’m praying that God would give me wisdom. My girls questions are getting tougher by the day.

Throughout the recent election we learned alot about the candidates, how voting works, and my girls seemed to really enjoy this unit and learning about how our country elects its leaders! Of course, they knew we were voting for John McCain. So, they asked why we didn’t want Obama to win. For the first few conversations, I was pretty vague…I said that each party has alot of things that they stand for, and some of the things Obama wanted were things we didn’t agree with or like. This held them off for awhile…

The questions continued, however, and during the news one evening the word “abortion” came up. I think my heart stopped. David explained to the girls what abortion is. In very simple terms we told them that sometimes a woman has a baby in her tummy and doesn’t want the baby so she decides to kill it. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about the heaviness of this conversation. My 5 and 6 year old daughters should not have to think about the things that are now in their minds…

It has been more than a week since our last discussion about abortion. But, today, Emily woke up from her nap with more questions.

“mommy, if Obama lets people kill babies will he go to jail?” ~~~ no, sweetie, you see alot of people in this country think that abortion is not wrong and they have made laws in different states saying that it is ok.

“mommy, does the mommy have to say it’s ok for them to kill her baby?” ~~~ Oh dear, well, yes…alot of times the mommy doesn’t want a baby. I tried to extend grace here too, by saying that some people don’t realize that the tiny baby inside them is alive…but that is not what we believe and what the Word of God tells us.

 

“mommy, who is the one that kills the baby?” ~~~ a doctor, which leads to another question “a doctor!! I thought doctors were supposed to help people get better! Does our doctor kill babies?” ~~~ Oh no, dear one, not all doctors will do it – some doctors think it is wrong just like we do.

 

“mommy, does the mommy hurt when they kill the baby?” ~~~ oh yes, sweet girl, in more ways than one, she will carry that hurt for the rest of her life.

 

“mommy, why would a mommy not want her baby?” ~~~ well, that one is hard to explain, there might be lots of reasons, but do you know how much your mommy wanted YOU? Do you know that the Bible tells us that God has a plan, a good plan, for every single baby that has ever lived? Every baby…in the womb or out.

“O, Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your spirit? or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ’surely the darkness shall fall on me, even the night shal be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.

For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139: 1-16

One last thing…if there happens to be any lady out there reading my blog who has had an abortion…please know my heart. I do not share my thoughts with you today to condemn you. I do not wish to further your pain. I want you to carefully read those verses from Psalms that I just quoted above. Those things are true of any baby we will ever carry, but dear one, they are true for you too! You are so precious to your Heavenly Father and He longs to forgive you, extend His grace to You and love you.

Election Day prayers

So, I can’t wear my shirt today to the polls…so I thought I’d “wear” it here today…I know alot of people that have already voted. Have you voted already? Are you going today? In years past I have never had to wait to vote more than maybe 10-15 minutes…so I wanted to take my kids with me today. They have learned alot about the election and the candidates over the past 2 weeks and are excited to go with me! (and well, they are excited to go to walmart too.) :(

So, anyway…make sure you get out and VOTE today!

I have been praying for our country…and must confess that I haven’t really known how to pray for this election. But, thankfully I’ve been getting those emails in my box with the 40 days to pray the election…here is today’s prayer. Please join me in praying for our country today!

Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
–Matthew 26:39

Sovereign God, Your plans are perfect and Your ways are right and just. You put Your plans in place and we see the beauty of all You have designed. We trust in Your perfect will, even when it does not make sense to us.

O Lord, bring about Your perfect will in our nation through these elections, we pray. Do just as You intend and give us faith and understanding to relinquish our wills to Yours, just as Your Son Jesus did when He surrendered His life for our sin. We thank You for Your goodness, and for Your kindness to us and our nation. In Your name, Amen.

Mean what you sing

Can you remember the songs that you sang this morning at church? Can you remember the words? Being a musical person, I love songs with meaning. I mean, I like a *pretty* song, but the songs that mean the most to me are those that have words that touch a place in my heart that the Lord has worked on. You know, like…

Amazing grace, my chains are GONE…

Great is thy faithfulness…morning by morning new mercies I see…

My Jesus, My Savior, Lord there is none like You…

He gives and takes away…my heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name!

Then sings my soul…how great Thou art…

Oh no, You never let go, Lord you never let go of me!

I could go on and on…and I’m sure you could name a few of your favorites. But, when is the last time you sang those songs with a heart so full you just felt like you would burst? When was the last time you sang those words with a heart so thankful that tears streamed down your face? I pray that the last time was this morning or even this evening! But, if not, I challenge you to take a few minutes the next time you hear a song and truly listen to those words.

And if, by chance, you don’t like the sound of the song, perhaps you can still find meaning in the words. Perhaps you can still find a reason to praise Him, because truly He is worthy. Despite our favorite worship style; despite the problems we see all around us…HE IS WORTHY. Amen.

Why do I say all this? Well, this morning (at our Southern Baptist church, by the way) our service opened with this song.

Folks, this is an upbeat song. I saw 1-2 people even half-dancing. (You know the kind that are bursting at the seams but afraid to um, dance in a Baptist church!) The lights and spotlights were swirling around the sanctuary. I’ll just tell you, I was excited.

You see, the words to this song make me want to cry. No, this isn’t one of those really “sappy” songs that brings tears to your eyes because of the way it sounds. And, I guess I could say that not too many people in our congregation seemed impressed. (at least by outward appearance.) But, as for me, I wanted to jump up and shout Hallelujah. (but, I didn’t. Maybe I should have!)

I just wanted to say…THANK YOU Jesus that my shackles are GONE. Thank you that I am free in You and because of YOU. I am no longer bound by sin. Thank You that You have freed me to praise You.

I would not have even thought about blogging on this topic (or song) had I not been working on my Beth Moore study tonight with this song still on the brain. We are finishing up Beth Moore’s Psalms of Ascent this week and I was working on some of the study. (as an aside, if you get the chance to do this study, I suggest you jump on it!)

Tonight my study was on Psalm 134.

Now praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who stand in the Lord’s house at night!

Lift up your hands in the holy place, and praise the Lord!

May the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.

Beth asks us to recall the first word in this psalm: NOW. Beth goes on to say that we shouldn’t dwell on the journey, the people who made us mad earlier, the style of worship that we don’t care for…but do what we were made for: worship. She goes on to say; “Worship has endless side effects in the life of the everyday psalmist. Among them, it exalts God to the highest place, thereby relieving the sojourner of the backbreaking burden of ego. It defeats our enemy. It answers grace with gratitude. And it ends in joy.” She also reminds us that the tempter tempts you to praise God the LEAST when you need it the MOST.

Ouch. I feel just a bit of conviction as I think about the distractions I feel in worship from time to time. And how much like the enemy to get us not praising when that is not only what brings God the glory, but is often what we need the most to get our heart in the right place!

Just a few thoughts tonight from an everyday psalmist…that’s you and me you know! Worshipers! It’s what we were created for…and I hope that when you read this you will be reminded to mean what you sing.

Struggling with Compassion

“When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14

“Jesus called His disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people…” Matthew 15:32

“Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes…” Matthew 20:34

“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” Mark 1:41

Have you ever noticed how much compassion Jesus had? And who exactly did He have compassion for? The sick, the hurting, the poor, the “lowly” things of this earth. Jesus didn’t come to the world to identify with the rich, those who have it all together. He entered the world as a lowly, poor pauper. One of those people. Born in a stable. A king?

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.”

I’m reading a book called The Red Letters ~ Living a Life that Bleeds by Tom Davis. And quite honestly, I can hardly get through it. Not because it is bad writing or not not interesting enough. But because about a year ago (maybe even more time than that, I’m having a hard time pinpointing when I started having these thoughts and feelings) God began working in my heart in a new way. The only way I can sum up my feelings are to say that I have become uncomfortable with being comfortable. And let’s face it, we are pretty darn comfortable here in America.

This book challenges us as believers…believers in Jesus…to ask ourselves if we are truly living out the words Jesus Himself gave to us…you know, the “red letters?”

“What if all Christ-followers lived the Red Letter words in the Bible – Jesus’ words? what if we offered the hungry something to eat, gave one of our many coats to someone who was cold, and truly loved all neighbors as ourselves? How radically different would our lives be? How different would our world be if Christians were really living as little Christs?” (from The Red Letter.)

I am going to risk offending someone that is reading by sharing this…but one of the things I struggle with the most is our church. And not just the one church I attend…but the american “church” I guess to take it further.

Yes, we have our pretty programs where we bring in a measly shoebox filled with maybe $5 worth of stuff to send to a poor child once a year. (or maybe we even do 2-3 boxes! Yay for me!) We take our old, worn-out clothing to the local ministry drop-off place. We give money to the church. Sometimes we even give money to other organizations, organizations that do wonderful things, don’t get me wrong. Maybe we even give an hour or two of our week each week to teach a lesson or keep the nursery.

Then, we walk out the church doors and get back to “life” as we know it. Busy schedules, carpool rides, going to ballet, fixing dinner, paying the bills, doctors appointments, dentist appointments, schooling the kids (or taking them to school) and the list goes on. And on. And on.

We paid our tithe, though! We are good Christians!

I struggle with the wealth of our churches. I mean it keeps me awake at night. I say this not to brag that I am some super-spiritual person. I’m not. I say this to ask you to pray for me. I can easily become critical when I dwell on the negative things! Pray that I will have God’s perspective…I want that so badly! I want His vision. Because quite honestly, I am a little (ok maybe alot) disheartened by the thousands of dollars our church body is spending just to advertise for our building fund. Now, don’t get me wrong, if we need a new sanctuary (big if, there) that really is not the point I am disheartened by. What bothers me is that they send us a new fancy folder, bumper sticker, pens, key chains in the mail…this week I walked into the church and now they have t-shirts —- all for the building program! I am too scared to look at the budget and see how much money we have spent just trying to raise money for a building.

See what I mean, I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like the negative and critical thoughts. But I am laying them all out there for you…honestly, I’d love to hear the perspective of other believers.

Given my personality, I know that I have a tendency to dwell on the negative. I have learned that about myself. And believe me when I say that I see a LOT of good things that my church is doing! truly! But I can’t get past all the money stuff. I can’t get past the child across the world that is dying without a .20 medication that he doesn’t have. And we need an 18 million dollar sanctuary.

I struggle with the orphans all over the world, our country included. I struggle with those who can’t feed their children, while I buy an ice cream treat on the way home from Sonic. I struggle with those who don’t have a roof over my head while I’m busy thinking about my friends with bigger and more beautiful homes. I struggle with not wanting to just sell my house and move across the world to live where I feel like I can actually do something. I know there are so many acts of service I can be doing right here. I just feel so helpless. I feel so burdened. I feel so rich.

I hope you hear my heart in this. I’m just struggling. I’m not trying to be critical. I’m just trying to hear God’s voice. I am begging that He would tell me what He is asking of me. I’m begging for His vision for my life. I’m wondering why He is giving me these burdens. What He is trying to tell me. What He wants from me. I want to be filled with that compassion that He has for me. I want to be filled with that compassion that He has for those around the world who don’t have anything. I want to be filled with Him and His love for the world around me.

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. the Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:8

Since coming home from Alaska

I wonder…

Do the boys at the orphanage know the love of Jesus?

Do the boys at the orphanage know that we truly love them.?

Will the Lord send someone (soon) to walk alongside these boys and disciple and encourage them?

Were the seeds firmly planted in the children at VBS?

Who will help water them?

Do the pastors of the 2 churches we were at know we are praying for them?

Will God open more hearts in Alaska?

Will He send more of His people into the darkness? Soon?

Will the outermost villages ever see the Light of Christ fill their villages?

Will the suicide rate go down before Jesus comes back?

Will the LIGHT overtake the DARKNESS that is there?

Did those we came into contact with see Jesus in us?

Did Mark, Ricky, and Barry from the food bank hear the love of Jesus in our words?

Who will go?

The Lord is my LIGHT and my SALVATION…whom shall I fear?

Psalm 27:1